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International Socialism, Summer 1966


Peter Ibbotson

The Curse


From International Socialism (1st series), No.25, Summer 1966, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


British Secondary Education
Ed. Richard E. Gross
Oxford, 30s

Only just ‘British’ – of the 21 schools whose aim, methods and organisation are described by their heads or members of their staffs, one is in Scotland, one in the six counties. The rest are English or Welsh.

These descriptive accounts are sandwiched between Dr Gross’s introduction and appraisal; the latter is far the longer. His castigations of the physical and financial shortcomings of education in England are sadly all-too-familiar; so is his assertion that ‘the invidious 11-plus separation seems to be the real curse of British education.’ (Insofar as the 11-plus epitomises educational stratification, it doesn’t seem to be, it IS.)

There is, though, a basic imbalance between the types of schools here represented. A quarter of Britain’s secondary school pupils attend grammar or independent schools; 11 of Dr Gross’s 21 fall within these categories. 60 per cent of secondary school pupils attend secondary modern schools; Dr Gross finds room for only three – and two are quite atypical. The most alive chapters are those about schools rooted in their environment and seeking consciously to serve the needs of the whole community: Peckham, Maesydderwen, Duffryn, Clyro Court. They are in sharp contrast with the artificiality or sterility of the restrictive (and restricted) regimes at, for example, Manchester Grammar School, Ravensdale Secondary Modern, or the army’s Welbeck College.

The ex-headmaster of Ravensdale, now a university lecturer, ought to know the difference between ‘euphuism’ (p.105) and euphemism; and the head of Welbeck ought to know that ‘quite unique’ is tautologous. Such lapses are, however, as nothing compared with Dr Gross’s own style and vocabulary: pure Anglo-American Ph.D.

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