|Issue 6 - June 1972|
are to go comprehensive! Despite a Labour controlled council, they
have retained the eleven plus up until this year, and it has become
increasingly obvious that abolishing the formal examination is the
only gesture that will be made towards comprehensive education.
At the moment the town has a grammar school, a secondary modern school and assorted junior and infant schools, as well as exclusively Catholic schools that cover the age range from 5 to 18 years. Most of the schools are already co-educational.
To Jarrow school kids, comprehension will mean virtually nothing. The younger kids will go to their existing schools, while the secondary age range will be streamed yearly on their teachers' recommendations. The higher streams will attend the present grammar school, those that are assessed as less able will go to the present secondary moderns. Then, as now, admittance to more specialised technical courses will be a long, hard fight, that few will bother to attempt as it seldom occurs to eleven year olds or to their parents that because he or she loves meccano but has difficulty in reading they may still have talent that only needs an opportunity to show itself. (Yet the High Level bridge over the Tyne can only have been designed by someone with a passion for meccano.)
With very few exceptions this 'radical change in education' will mean that the only difference to the school kids will be the removal of the examination called the eleven plus, which will be replaced by annual tests. The council's proud boast is that they are making the change to comprehensive schools with the least possible disruption to the children - only a handful of whom will have to change schools. There is a lot of bad feeling about this amongst teachers, parents, and some of the kids.
The teachers and kids had seen it as an opportunity to brighten up their present dreary lives a bit, and a chance to be able to do more things that they wanted to do.
The parents' annoyance is mainly centred on the fact that they distrust the teachers' assessment of their children even more than they did the eleven plus.
There is also a lot of discontent over the fact that the Catholic schools will now be brought at least nominally into the system, and the predominance of Catholic children in the town will leave the rest outnumbered. I'm not sure myself how big a problem this really is, but some of the mothers I have discussed the changeover plans with, see this as the biggest threat to their children.
The kids themselves seem to be mainly uninterested in something that should affect the lives greatly. A school is a school is a school, is the general attitude. Call it what you like, it's still the same.
As far as Jarrow is concerned they are depressingly right.