Eleven plus

Coming up to the age of eleven was a deciding time as far as education was concerned and by the time I reached that age an exam had been introduced which settled which type of school you would go to once you had reached that age but the exam was voluntary. At the time that Rod had reached that age most working class boys would have some difficulty in going to a Grammar School and would have had to apply for a Scholarship to get in, although you would not have a problem if your parents could afford the fees, if they could then that quite thick kids would gain entry. Had Rod tried for a Scholarship he would almost certainly have won one but my parents never ever thought to apply.

The lack of parental support meant that in the case of Pat and I, we did not enter for the eleven plus exam therefore we were stuck with the secondary school with our position judged by the teaching staff at junior school making a judgement as to our capabilities. Pat was judged to be in the top {A} stream at the senior school which had the same curriculum as the grammar school. I on the other hand, although I was given the necessary forms to enter for the exam never took them home which I don’t think would have made any difference because mum would still not have been supportive. I think because I never volunteered to answers questions even if I knew the answer and stayed in the background as much as possible, to the extent that, like Sunday School, I was almost invisible and in my own judgement of my abilities, particularly English, I never rated myself as anywhere good enough.

A degree of dyslexia played a part in this assessment, a problem which was not recognised at that time, resulting in there being almost as much red ink on my written efforts as black. Thus on my teachers assessment, I was judged to be ‘B’ stream quality which I quite happily accepted. During my first term at Northend Secondary School they held the first Intelligence Test which resulted in me elevated to the ‘A’ stream. I can’t remember receiving any praise for this achievement from my parents which sort of made it unimportant to me as well.

My success, although unimportant to me, was important to my close rival at School although I did not know he was a rival, this was Denny Reeves who was born in the next house to were I was born two weeks after me. Denny, like me, was judged as ‘B’ but did not ‘go up’ with the result of the intelligence test, Mrs Reeves protested to the school, as to why had Brian Hoskins had ‘gone up’ whilst her son had not ? .I doubt if she would have done so if it was not me that had been promoted. Actually this was not the only occasion that I was to go head to head with Denny, we were both selected to play for a position in Eastleigh Schools football team although ‘for the life of me’ I don’t know why I was ever considered ‘good enough’ for any position in that team so I was not surprised not to be selected but neither was Denny. 

On another occasion, just Denny and I were selected to audition for one place in Romsey Abbey Choir that was to sing at Countess Mountbatten’s daughters wedding, on this occasion Denny won not because he had a better voice but because he was C of E whereas I was Congregational, the only consolation to that defeat was being told by the choir master that in fact I had the better voice but that Denny being C of E was familiar with that churches rituals and I was not, nevertheless both Pat and I sang in Romsey Abbey which we attended on a number of occasions for rehearsals of music like the ‘Messiah’ and we also sang in the Crossfield Hall which is also in Romsey. The only way we could get to Romsey from Chandlers Ford was by train as there was no bus service directly from either Chandlers Ford or Eastleigh to the town but that added to the fun and from those visits I fell in love with the place.

I liked Mr Trayhorn very much and I have to thank him for teaching me to sing really well and to love music, sadly he left the school and was replaced by a very young good looking music teacher who had nowhere near the ability nor enthusiasm of our previous master and the choir which had been regarded highly almost ceased to exist. Mr. Martin was his name and the most I remembered him by was that he wanted us to play a musical instrument, the problem was that apart from cheap violins, other instruments, because of the war, were hard to come by. Rod had attempted to play the violin with little success. 

Pat also tried to play the same instrument which she took over from Rod and I was next in line but by the time it came to me it had broken strings and the bow needed some repair, as a result I never got to try but from the sounds that Pat and Rod managed to get out of the thing I didn’t think I was going to miss not learning and I’m sure the rest of the family were pleased, however instead of the violin I was loaned a saxophone belonging to Mr Martin but only received a very rudimentary lesson in how to play the scales which I practiced at home, so instead of having to tolerate the screech of the violin the family had to put up with the wail of me trying to play the notes in some sort of recognisable order but this effort did not last long as I had to give the instrument back because Mr Martin was removed due to his indiscretion with one of the girls in my class who had thrown herself at him and he had gone along with it, we in his class, knew what was going on but never told on them. However, amongst the many things that I have always regretted in my life, is not being able to play an instrument..