Thursday, April 25, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Taking an 11-Plus


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LAST WEEK my beloved co-pager Veoma asked her readers: “Do you remember your 11-plus experience?” Apparently she handled hers with consummate ease – a Coke, a Kiss, and two hot dogs. Yep, that about all you need.

In my time, we sat for individual schools. When I was nine, my father took me one Saturday morning to Harrison College. A dictation, some maths and English. Another day we went for an interview, taking our exercise books.

There was great rejoicing at Miss Phillips’ School when I got in. Miss Phil read out the letter at prayers, my uniform requirements, my book list. (Miss Phillips was actually my second school. I had one term at Miss Balance in Fontabelle after which the doctor advised her to give up teaching. She splurged us with cake and ice cream and called it a day.)

Miss Phillips was a great school. We learned pounds, shillings and pence; yards, feet and inches (today’s metric-ulates are lost when a carpenter asks for a 14 foot 2×4.) We knew how many grains in a scruple. (Do today’s yutes even have scruples?)

We sang, we marched. We learned Roman numerals, a bit of French. You got a pencil if you let Miss Phil pull out a shaky tooth with a piece of string.

$14 a term school fees

Getting into Harrison College was more about being able to afford the $14 a term school fees and your father knowing the headmaster. My three daughters also went there but they sat the 11-plus. Still, no great pressure – no private lessons, no endless papers.

I had two grands in last week’s affair, and, Lord have mercy, education now makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a joke. Benco papers coming through their wazoos. Private lessons or you’re dead. Pressure down the line.

I’m no fan of school education. In fact, had my Vaucluse friend [Lord High] Admiral Vernon Watson been a little more forthcoming with some dynamite, I had planned to blow HC to kingdom come using the bicycle storage facility under the hall.

Yet I agree with grouping children according to academic ability – if we’re going for the maths/English thing. I know how it feels to be in a class where everyone but me knew what was going on. But surely one killer exam isn’t the way to separate the sheeps from the goats?

Let’s leave that there and see how the Eminent Citizens’ Participatory Initiative is getting on.

Ten citizens will apparently notify the Chief Electoral Officer they want a law. They will then get 30 supporting signatures from each constituency to a total of 2 500.

Whoa right there! You can visit two paro blocks in any constituency and get 30 signatures to support any law – including requiring Lord Nelson to wear Ellen underwear – at $20 a head. Surely less than one per cent aren’t proposing laws for 285 000?

If approved, we get to vote on the law at election time. Then the MPs have the final say.

Weighing of MPs

Actually, private citizens I sampled do want laws. Suggested were: a ban on weird music when firms put you “on hold”; weighing of MPs on election and every three months thereafter – any increases to be taxed to offset damages to government furniture; and free rides in the Bush Hill area for senior citizens.

This last one, however, upset the Bush Hill operatives, or “Musclekat-eers”. They point out Bush Hill rides involve slippery conditions, and senior citizens are often loath to get off because they’re never sure if they’ve reached their destination.

More as it comes to hand. Greetings to celebrated poet Kamau on reaching 85. Poetry can be dangerous. As a boy I read how Simple Simon “went to catch a dicky bird and thought he could not fail, because he had a little salt to put upon its tail”. Needless to say, I wasted much time and salt in that futile pursuit.

Recently my wife read from Buckingham: “Love is the salt of life; a higher taste it gives to pleasure, and then makes it last”. Her sprinkling my parts with salt has had similar disappointing results both as regards taste and lasting quality.

Finally, a Bajan in England has asked me to interpret this dream: He “was in St James. Huge buildings, cars, many people. But not one person spoke English”. Any ideas?

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email


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