Tag Archives: Education

Scrap Book Project – School Reports

From 1960 to 1965 I went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infant School in the village where I lived and three times a year at the end of each term I had the traumatic experience of taking home to my parents a sealed brown envelope which contained the dreaded  ‘school report’.

This was never a happy experience for me because generally speaking my academic progress from one term to the next could only be described as ponderous and disappointing as I plodded my way through junior school towards an inevitable failure in the eleven plus exam.

At Hillmorton County Junior School the Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks who was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism in the classroom was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive and he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.

For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs or additional support mechanisms and the class was set out in a Victorianly strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia.  I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard.

School Days Beamish Museum

The reports were handed out by the form teacher and there were strict instructions to take them home without opening them.  I must admit that I was tempted now and again but never had the courage to tear open the envelope that was marked ‘private and confidential’. My friend David Newman used to open his and on one occasion it was so bad that he posted it down a drain at the side of the road.  This wasn’t something he could hope to get away with of course because at the bottom of the report was a perforated line and a tear off slip that parents had to sign and had to be returned to school just so teachers knew that the report had been delivered as instructed.

I would dutifully take mine home and hand it over to mum who would put it somewhere safe ready for dad to open when he got home from work.  There then followed a nervous hour or so waiting for him to come through the door, get changed, sit down and open the envelope.

I knew it was going to be bad, it always was, and a sort of tide of disappointment spread over his face like red wine spilled over a white tablecloth as he read down the single page of comments that confirmed that very little progress had been made again this term.  He never lost his temper or got cross but when he had digested the full horror of this term’s sorry effort I’d be subjected to a lecture on how I needed to work harder (blah, blah, blah), how I had to make more effort (blah, blah, blah), how I needed to think about the eleven plus exam (blah, blah, blah) and how this all was if I didn’t want to work in a factory all my life (blah, blah, blah).

I have often thought that in the interests of fairness that parents should have to bring home a work report for the benefit of their children’s amusement – imagine Prime Minister David Cameron’s…

Arithmetic – Excellent, David’s expenses claims are brilliantly prepared

English – Good grasp of English but tends to be bombastic and rude

Economics – Very weak with little grasp of basic economic principles

Geography – Weak, doesn’t seem to understand the concept of Europe

History – Poor, needs to understand that Britain no longer has an Empire

Science – Obsessive interest in nuclear power

Religious Instruction – Needs to stop picking on religious minorities

Gym – Very poor, needs to get himself in shape

Summary – David needs to pay attention to what other people are saying and to take other people’s views into consideration.  He has a tendency to be confrontational, argumentative and rude.  He can be very stubborn and dismissive of other people.  He needs to address these issues or he may not get re-elected in 2015.

School Lessons

On Friday 20th December 1963 I took home possibly my worst school report ever and I had sunk to my lowest possible pitiful academic level.  In the overall assessment I scored a dismal 10 out of a possible 100 which put me firmly amongst the dunces.  Dad wasn’t too pleased that day I can tell you as he read down a succession of comments that was nothing to be proud of:

English – ‘Andrew is not working hard enough – I expect a more serious effort in January’

Arithmetic – ‘Weak – Very disappointing’

Religious Instruction – ‘Not good enough’

Science – ‘Average’

Geography – ‘Not good enough’

Practical Work – ‘Quite good when he gets down to it’

Music – ‘Little interest shown’

The form teacher’s general report said – The above remarks tell their own story, Andrew has got to work harder’

Hillmorton County School

Luckily I  think he may have read my sister Lindsay’s report first which was always far worse than mine but nevertheless I had some explaining to do that night that’s for sure and I expect going out to play was out of the question that weekend but although it was an awful report there was surely some room for optimism that dad had either missed or overlooked:

Handwriting – ‘Excellent’, so, it wasn’t all bad because although I was a confirmed dunce in all subjects at least I could write quite nicely and this presumably helped the teachers understand just how hopeless I was! I probably wasn’t doing myself any favours there.

School Reports

From 1960 to 1965 I went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infant School in the village where I lived and three times a year at the end of each term I had the traumatic experience of taking home to my parents a sealed brown envelope which contained the ‘school report’.

This was never a happy experience for me because generally speaking my academic progress from one term to the next could only be described as disappointing as I plodded my way through junior school towards an inevitable failure in the eleven plus exam.

At Hillmorton County Junior School the Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks who was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive and he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.

For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs or additional support mechanisms and the class was set out in a strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia.  I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard.

The reports were handed out by the form teacher and there were strict instructions to take them home without opening them.  I must admit that I was tempted now and again but never had the courage to tear open the envelope that was marked ‘private and confidential’. My friend David Newman used to open his and on one occasion it was so bad that he posted it down a drain at the side of the road.  This wasn’t something he could hope to get away with of course because at the bottom of the report was a perforated line and a tear off slip that parents had to sign and had to be returned to school just so teachers knew that the report had been delivered as instructed.

I would dutifully take mine home and hand it over to mum who would put it somewhere safe ready for dad to open when he got home from work.  There then followed a nervous hour or so waiting for him to come through the door, get changed, sit down and open the envelope.

I knew it was going to be bad, it always was, and a sort of tide of disappointment spread over his face as he read down the single page of comments that confirmed that no progress had been made again this term.  He never lost his temper or got cross but when he had digested the full horror of this term’s sorry effort I’d be subjected to a lecture on how I needed to work harder (blah, blah, blah), how I had to make more effort (blah, blah, blah), how I needed to think about the eleven plus exam (blah, blah, blah) and how this all was if I didn’t want to work in a factory all my life (blah, blah, blah).

On Friday 20th December 1963 I took home possibly my worst school report ever and I had sunk to my lowest possible academic level.  In the overall assessment I scored a dismal 10 out of a possible 100 which put me firmly amongst the dunces.  Dad wasn’t too pleased that day I can tell you as he read down a succession of comments that was nothing to be proud of:

English – ‘Andrew is not working hard enough – I expect a more serious effort in January’

Arithmetic – ‘Weak – Vey disappointing’

Religious Instruction – ‘Not good enough’

Science – ‘Average’

Geography – ‘Not good enough’

Practical Work – ‘Quite good when he gets down to it’

Music – ‘Little interest shown’

The form teacher’s general report said – The above remarks tell their own story, Andrew has got to work harder’

I had some explaining to do that night and I expect going out to play was out of the question that weekend but although it was an awful report there was surely some room for optimism that dad had either missed or overlooked:

Handwriting – ‘Excellent’, so, it wasn’t all bad because although I was a confirmed dunce in all subjects at least I could write quite nicely and this presumably helped the teachers understand just how hopeless I was! I probably wasn’t doing myself any favours there.

Learning To Read

I have always had a love of reading and books, even as a child.  Some of the early books that I had were an eleven part junior encyclopaedia, a book called Picture Stories From The Bible and a collection of children’s Ladybird books. Ladybird Books closed on 30th November 1998 and this memory has prompted to think about learning to read.

Until I was five we lived in a variety of houses in Leicester and in 1958 we had moved home from Ledwell Drive in Glenfield to Chislehurst Avenue in Braunstone and in September 1959 it was time in life to go to school.  The Ravenhurst Primary School was about a five hundred-metre stroll across rough land waiting for houses to be built on it and I used to walk there with my friends John and Michael Sparks who lived on the other side of the road.  The teacher’s name was Miss Bird and her classroom had alphabet pictures on the wall, ‘A’ for alcohol, ‘B’ for beer, ‘C’ for cider and so on and it was here that I started to learn to read using the ‘Dick and Dora books’.

In the 1950s, Dick and Dora were supposed to be average kids, living a typical English life with their parents and their pets, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. (I have written on this blog about my dislike of dogs and you will notice here that even in a children’s book the dog has a name that implies that it will bite you.)  Their unexceptional and almost idyllic middle-class existence of playing in the garden and once a year going to the seaside was the basis of a series of books designed to teach children to read.

I liked Dick and Dora but I didn’t get long at Ravenhurst School because after only a couple of terms we moved to Hinckley where I went to the Grove Road Church of England Primary School and very soon after that moved to Rugby and went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants school where they had ‘Janet and John’ books instead which were very similar and taught four to seven year old children how to read by progressively incorporating and repeating key words in the development of reading skills.

With three schools in the first year I wasn’t get a good chance to settle in and I blame this for holding me back and making me a disappointing pupil for the first ten years or so of school.

 

What am I reading now?

Reference Books and Wikipedia

I inherited from my dad a love of books and knowledge and over thirty years or so I assembled an impressive personal library of reference books consisting of encyclopedias, atlases, great works of literature, almanacs, dictionaries and gazetteers.  If I wanted to know something or carry out a piece of research I had a bookcase full of scholarly volumes that would almost always provide the information and the answers.

I still have the books but add to the collection less frequently now because if I want to know something now I almost always use the internet because somewhere here is lurking the answer to absolutely everything and my favourite is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that went online on 15th January 2001.  The name is a combination of the Hawaiian word for quick, ‘wiki’, and ‘encyclopedia’. It is actively updated in over one hundred languages, the English language Wikipedia contains over one and a half million articles and there are eleven other language editions with over one hundred thousand articles each and over fifty languages with over ten thousand articles each.  This absence of language barriers, and the fact that anybody with an Internet connection and a web browser can edit its contents, has Wikipedia termed as a ‘sum of public human knowledge.’

It is one of the most popular websites on the internet (Google is top) and is used by around sixty-five million people each month and I think I use it almost every day.  A very common criticism of Wikipedia however is its inconsistent and unauthoritative submission framework because, dangerously, the encyclopedia allows anybody to edit its pages, even anonymously.

I have been caught out myself by this and to be safe all information from Wikipedia really needs to be cross referenced and independently verified because citing Wikipedia as a reference work is usually frowned upon in most academic circles as my son Jonathan discovered when he was at University.  But it is not only Wikipedia that can sometimes be inaccurate and in  2005 the scientific publication Nature performed a comparison of the accuracy of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica and it found that the amount of errors per article in Wikipedia and Britannica were roughly the same. However,  the severity of errors in Wikipedia were considered worse because although Encyclopedia Britannica suffered mostly from fact omission, Wikipedia suffered from inaccurate information, mischief and lies and  the open nature of the online encyclopedia has lead to some embarrassing and damaging instances in which article pages have been edited or revised to contain false information. The entry for Tony Blair for example was edited to state that his middle name was ‘Whoop-de-do’ and I always thought it was ‘lying bastard’.