In 1964 I was 10 and had moved to Colchester three years earlier with my parents. My brother, who was 4 years older than me, had passed his 11+ and had started at the ‘Royal Grammar School’. Now it was my turn to sit the dreaded exam.
I was in my last year at Old Heath Primary School which was situated in quite a mixed area of Colchester with about 80% council houses and 20% private. Each year the school produced a handful of children who passed the 11+ and went to one of the three local grammar schools, one mixed and the other two single sexed. The majority went to the local secondary modern, Wilson Marriage School, a school with a very poor reputation. Most children were lucky if they came away from there with a CSE or two and very few went on to any form of further education.
My parents were not the pushy type and, although they had just moved out of council accommodation in Bury St Edmunds to their own house in Colchester, they were not well off and it was a struggle for them for a number of years. In today’s terms they were JAMs (just about managing). They made no big deal of the 11+. They would be glad if I passed, but if I didn’t, ‘que sera, sera’.
It was me that wanted to pass. I desperately wanted to pass because the reputation of the tough lads that went to Wilson Marriage scared me witless. Their ‘gang’ was feared around the town, where rivalry amongst the secondary moderns as to who could be the toughest was rife.