I romantically assume, the purpose of schooling in 1960’s and 1970’s UK was to provide a general introduction to topics. A catalyst to inspire fresh minds to develop skills and assist in identifying one’s career path.
Primary school was all about singing, maypole dancing, being statues, playing percussion instruments, needlework, beanbags, art, decimalisation, decorating walls with forest gauging paper collages, playing ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf?’, free milk, and carbolic soap.
Streaming in secondary school labelled the ‘brightest’ two groups as ‘A’s destined for G.C.E ‘O’ and ‘A’ level study* whilst the three groups of ‘B’s were setup for C.S.E.s**. The remaining ‘R’ group of remedial students were segregated from the rest. It was rumoured they were consigned to a single room, secreted away somewhere to avoid sullying the reputation of the school and tainting the achievers.
In the first halcyon year, I realised my passions in art, pottery, drama, music, the Dewey decimal system organised library, history, English, French, and German. Dislikes included, P.E. (physical education), R.E. (religious education), geography, and science. Also, boys only, woodwork, metalwork, and technical drawing.
Girls only, typing, sewing, and domestic science were more preferable to me, sadly out of reach.
When electing a program of certificated study from the second year onwards, English language, mathematics, sports (cringe) and one science subject were compulsory. I elected courses in history, French, German, music (violin then oboe), pottery, and English literature.
As biology turned my stomach, chemistry was smelly and required an in-depth knowledge of the periodic table, physics was the only option left.
Even though as a youth and now, I had a terribly disorganised and random mind, I found solace in algebra and measuring objects.
For decades, I held onto the dog eared, pale peach gloss coloured logarithmic and other tables booklet. The cover retained an archive of finger prints, biro marks, food stains and liquid spill marks.
Unfortunately, my final year of secondary studies and fifth year examinations took place 30 kms south in a high school local to our new council house assigned to our family as part of the ‘Birmingham overspill’.
Somehow, I scraped by with four ‘O’ levels in English language, mathematics, history, and ceramics plus C.S.Es physics, German, and music (oral). Sufficient enough to commence an ordinary national diploma in hospitality.
In hindsight, we would have benefitted from courses in cooking, cleaning, laundry, personal hygiene, budgeting, safety, tolerance, respect, and communication skills.
I didn’t give up on French, gaining a high distinction in language and culture at university level in Australia.
*General Certificate of Education at Ordinary and Advanced level provided access to tertiary level technical and polytechnic colleges, and universities.
**Certificate of Secondary Education gained access to tertiary level technical colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeships.