John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The “eleven plus”

Early Days

 1. I can’t remember much about the “eleven plus”—when it took place, for example. All I remember is that one day when I was in Class 1 we were taken off—some of us? all of us?—across the playground to the other school building, to the small classroom at the side of the main hall, between the cloakroom and Pop Kay’s office, to the classroom normally occupied by Class 1R, the remedial class.
 I seem to remember that the whole thing was underplayed by the teachers: it wasn’t called “the eleven plus” any more, we were told; all it was, was a series of tests. We were not told that our performance in these tests would determine what kind of school we went to the following academic year: Grammar School if we did well or Secondary Modern if we didn’t. And it seems to me that it was sprung on us unawares, that we were not told that it was going to take place on such a day.

 2. To be sure, prior to this and in preparation for something, for several months—perhaps even from when we were in Class 2—we had been doing homework: taking home three or four fairly thin, foolscap-size workbooks, with arithmetic questions in one, mathematical problems in another (“If it takes three men four days to do such a task, how long does it take four men?” and so on), perhaps English questions in another, and reasoning questions and puzzles in another.
 When we first started doing this, I felt that it was such an onerous burden;
[1] it seemed at the outset that there would never be an end to the drudgery of it, day in and day out.
 I remember that I would get exasperated when Steven wouldn’t keep quiet while I was trying to work through these awful exercises, and when my Mum or Dad told him to be quiet he would complain that when he had had to do homework I had made a noise and hadn’t been told to keep quiet.
 There were perhaps a hundred questions to be done at one sitting; and then the following day, in class, we would find out how well we had done when Pop Robinson read out the answers and we marked our own work. I don’t think we ever had to hand the books in, which was just as well for me because I cheated a bit to avoid embarrassment, and altered some of my answers. For as he read the answers out, I started to get all hot and worried as I noticed now one, now another, that I had got wrong. And I knew that at the end he would ask those who had got 100 right to put their hands up, then those who had got 99, and so on. That is why I did it, because I was the one who came top of the class every year in exams, and I was ashamed when first one, then another of my peers put his or her hand up: Marion Chandler, Christopher Phillips, Lorraine Atkinson—all of whom I used to outdo in exam performance twice a year.
[1] I felt that it was such an onerous burden: The memory of this still persists, and even now, if I am called upon to undertake something onerous and ongoing, I still call the feeling that I get the “Eleven Plus Homework Feeling”.


“Marion Chandler”, 1960 photo
See also:
Class 5: June–July 1957
Class 4: Lorraine Atkinson

“Christopher Phillips”, 1960 photo
He claimed Lorraine Atkinson as his girlfriend; see Class 4: Lorraine Atkinson.

“Lorraine Atkinson”, 1960 photo
I first mentioned her in Class 4: Lorraine Atkinson.

“I”, 1960 photo
 3. I remember that as day followed day after these tests in the Class 1R room, I started to feel apprehensive about what the outcome would be. But in fact I eventually found out that I had passed.


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