06 June 2006

Diary of Gratitude - III

Next item in the roll call of 'count your blessings' comes yet another war-time benefit. The 1944 Education or Butler Act made education compulsory and free for everyone between the ages of five and fifteen. It ushered in an examination known as the 11-plus for all eleven-year-olds. The results of this intelligence test would decided which sort of secondary school you would go to: technical, secondary modern, or grammar. The exam was dreaded by pupils and parents alike because it determined to a large extent what sort of education and job you would end up with in adult life. My birthday fell in August, so I actually took my 11-plus when I was ten. And I knew, by local reputation and a dawning sense of political awareness, that failing the exam meant social death in the local secondary modern school. I was fortunate enough to pass - the only boy at my school to do so. Grammar school when I got there was a strange and in many ways hostile place. We were forced to do things that I hated, such as play football, cricket, and (even worse) rugby. But the intellectual benefits of the environment were something from which I have benefited throughout the rest of my life.

So what has my generation to be thankful for so far? 1. Born in a Western European democracy. 2. Healthy diet because of rationing. 3. The Butler Act which opened the educational doors to the likes of us. Stand by next for the swinging sixties.

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