To Think That Comprehensive Schools of the 70s and 80s were "Shit" and did nothing for many pupils and where in many cases just as bad as the "Modern" Schools they replaced

(118 Posts)
soul2000 Thu 27-Feb-14 13:06:58

I suffered terribly at my "Middle Class" Comprehensive in the early 1980s and when I was taken out by my parents at the end of 3rd year I could not even hold a pen correctly. I had forgotten even this basic thing, the Secondary school taught my absolutely nothing , and just left me dreading school everyday ( Not through Physical Bullying) I was able to defend myself that way , but through Mental Torture from Staff as well as pupils.

I honestly believe I would have learnt more in a old fashioned "Modern School" The dreaded words, I believe that they would have at least taught me basic Maths/English and I would have been able to show some ability on the sports field.

I know some people will come on and say " I got in to Oxford from My Comprehensive , as did my 10 friends". There must be many people like me though that received an education that was totally inadequate.

They must be some people who believe like me that believe these experiences put them off Education , and made it very difficult to even contemplate returning to any education ( Why Would you go back to something that caused you so much pain and fear)

A long post I know, but was feeling Crap in bed last night and started "Crying" I know its 30 years ago . ( I have Blocked it out for many years) Since I started studying again Open University) I can get fear and trepidation in bed , thinking about education ( although I am doing ok with the O.U)

soul2000 Thu 27-Feb-14 13:08:31

There must be some people....

Mintyy Thu 27-Feb-14 13:11:02

Sorry you went to such a dreadful school.

I think there are very few of us who have experience of more than one or two secondary schools and so it is more or less impossible to comment on what all the comprehensive schools of the 70s and 80s were like.

gordyslovesheep Thu 27-Feb-14 13:12:26

no yabu - your school was crap - it would have been crap if it was an secondry modern (which I think is what you mean by a 'modern school' ?)

Some comps where outstanding, some where okay, some where good - same as it always was and still is

Pooka Thu 27-Feb-14 13:12:42

Sorry but YABU to baldly state that comprehensives in the 70s/80s were shit.

It's awful that you weren't well taught when you were at secondary school (though I wonder why you're blaming the secondary school for the way you held your pen, since this is surely a skill that would have been taught from age 5).

Yes, some schools, comprehensive/grammar/secondary modern/independent are not good. And some children at all of those categories of school may be miserable. But you can't, on your experience of your school, write off all schools of that type as being rubbish. I went to a comp in the 80s and did very well.

Donki Thu 27-Feb-14 13:13:08

I think that all schools are different, and that one poor comprehensive school does not mean they were all rubbish. I am sorry that you had such a hard time.

My own experience was very different - in a big comprehensive in a rundown and depressed Mining town in the 70's with huge social difficulties and high FSM.

Hi soul.

I went to a comprehensive in the 80s, did well-got 9 GCSEs. But I was bullied terribly and I couldn't wait to leave at 16.

I think I would have continued to A Levels if I hadn't been bullied.

ForgettableTampon Thu 27-Feb-14 13:14:50

Well my comp education was truly crap too

The comp system had merged a boys grammar, a girls secondary modern and another school, I forget

Jeez it was awful

I am quite clever, modest too, hah! and learned more from my Papa and his encyclopedias/local library/museums etc than via schooling. Huge fails in my cohort in exams/quals - o levels were out, CSEs were in (SCISPs anyone?)

About five consecutive years of poor teaching til it got act together

Never again but wait...Academy schools ffs.

angelos02 Thu 27-Feb-14 13:15:23

I think it is just the same today - there are great state schools and there are rubbish ones too. I attended state school in the 70's and 80's and it was great. Many people went on to have great careers - doctors, barristers etc. It is generally the catchment area that makes a good school IMO.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 27-Feb-14 13:15:46

I don't think you can say they were all bad as how do we know.
However, I have written about my experiences here a lot and school completely ruined my lfe for many years.
I finally gained an education during my 30's.
I had it all paid for and even had maintenance, grants and 6k to do a PGCE, least they could offer after such physical and mental cruelty throughout my childhood.

trampstamp Thu 27-Feb-14 13:16:04

Op there are some well shit ones now

Sorry you went through that

NormHonal Thu 27-Feb-14 13:18:03

I got into Oxford through my comprehensive. grin sorry OP, couldn't resist. True though.

It's impossible to generalise. My school had a bad reputation, would undoubtedly have been flagged as below-par by Ofsted if inspected now, and yet a few wonderful teachers bust a gut to do what they could for us.

I don't doubt that many of my peer group at school had a completely different experience to mine - within the same school.

Mirage Thu 27-Feb-14 13:18:52

I went to a bad one too,and met one of my teachers last year,who admitted that the whole place was a big mistake.But,I suppose that there must have been good ones,only not where I live.

I hated every minute,if you were bright you got beaten up and you soon learnt not to put your head above the parapet.I left as soon as I could after O Levels,after my experience there was no way I would stay any longer than I had to.

Sadly,it is DD1's catchment school,I've got everything crossed that she gets either her 1st or 2nd choice.It is currently in SM.

AngelaDaviesHair Thu 27-Feb-14 13:20:30

You can only speak for your own experience, surely? My 1980s comp was very good, I did well there and subsequently. I wasn't alone. There was an outstanding Remedial Dept. (as it was called then) and very good stats for Oxbridge entrance as well as other Unis.

There were and are some very poor secondary schools, which is a scandal. But there is nothing inevitable about comprehensives and other ordinary state secondaries being poor. It is so important we don't write state schools (and the people who attend(ed) them) off. One thing that would help enormously is families valuing education more and putting a priority on good behaviour and participation.

All that said, I'm sorry your experience was so bad.

I'm sorry to hear how bad your school was, but I don't think you can conclude that a whole category of schools was terrible just because of your own experiences. If the Comprehensive replaced a Secondary Modern, then there's every chance that was just as bad in its time too.

Glad to hear you are now studying with OU and doing well at that. It's hard to get past a bad start in education.

awaywiththepixies Thu 27-Feb-14 13:28:42

I too went to a comprehensive that was less than adequate. I was bullied for 3 years, in class and out. The teachers did absolutely nothing. I did poorly at school, although after school went on to get a levels and a good degree (graduating at 28). However I have very poor social skills now, much of it attributable to the bullying and the defence mechanisms you put in place in that situation.

My DC attends the school I attended. I think the academic standards are piss poor now but I think there are definitely systems in place to minimise the possibility of kids now experiencing what I did.

soul2000 Thu 27-Feb-14 13:32:14

the School also had a Unit for children who were deemed in the day the different use of words SEN in a in 1970s /80s way . The school used to hide behind the terrible bullying and very poor standards for the majority , by getting 2 -3 kids each year to Oxford/Cambridge.

bottlenecker Thu 27-Feb-14 13:36:27

I also went to an appalling comp. Hardly anyone took o'levels let alone passed them and many no exams at all.
It was awful and I too get upset about being so badly let down.

Pagwatch Thu 27-Feb-14 13:39:38

I went to a comp in the 70s
I had a very similar experience to yours OP
The feeling of being second best after being educated in a school that despised education doesn't really leave you does it.
But you should try to let it go tbh. No one else cares. I don't mean that no one cares a out you but that those who love you and value you don't.

5Foot5 Thu 27-Feb-14 13:40:50

Agreed that you cannot generalize on a whole generation of schools from one experience. Also I wonder are you in touch with anyone you knew from back then to see if their feelings for it were the same. It may surpise you.

I went to a Comprehensive in the 1970s. Until very shortly before I started there it had been a Secondary Modern. Throughout my time there I can see how it was still slowly throwing off its Secondary Modern traditions to become more academic.

I was just behind the curve on these changes so my cohort still had to do compulsory craft subjects for the first three years (cooking and needlework for girls, woodwork and metalwork for boys) and we only had the option to do at most two science subjects. Our Biology teacher loved you to do CSE because she liked the display of project work which made her clasroom look interesting - I am sure she felt those of us who did only O level were letting the side down!

When I started I think only 5 teachers out of 40 or 50 were graduates. There were some truly terrible teachers but also some very good, dedicated and inspirational ones. This did not necessarily correspond with their qualifications.

I know some people came out of that school with nothing to show for it but personally, yes I did OK despite some of its weaknesses. 10 O-level, 3 straight As at A-level and a place at a good Uni (not Oxbridge!)

However, in recent years I have been back in touch with some of my old school friends and one in particular, the girl who was my best friend for most of the time there, admitted how miserable she was and how much she hated the school. I had no idea. I know she was slightly more susceptible to bullying than I was and more upset by it when it happened but it honestly never occurred to me that she had such a bad view of the school when, on the whole, I ws very happy there.

Bit long but trying to say that even within the same school there could be different opinions and experiences.

ShoeWhore Thu 27-Feb-14 13:46:56

I'm sorry you had such a negative experience of school OP.

There were things about my 80s comp that would never be allowed now. We had a Geography teacher who was especially shit.

But we also had some really dedicated, caring and inspirational teachers and loads of us went on to uni and have done some interesting and varied things. It was such a different time that it's not fair to compare to today's schools.

Sadly Oxbridge knocked me back but I did get into one of the popular alternatives for Oxbridge rejects grin

I agree with pps though - we can all only refer to our own very limited experience of our own secondary schools.

LoonvanBoon Thu 27-Feb-14 13:47:27

YABU to make such enormous generalisations from your own experience.

First, I don't understand the bit about not being able to hold a pen correctly by the end of the 3rd year (Year 9 now) - am I misreading that? Surely if you needed to be taught that at secondary school there must have been a problem with your primary education?

Anyway, I went to a fairly ordinary ("bog standard") comprehensive school in the '80s & my experience was very mixed, with teaching ranging from excellent to poor. There was some bullying, & I had a moderately hard time in the early years but loved it by the 6th form.

I did get into Oxford from my school, & most of the people I met there - including those from "top" selective independent schools - also had mixed experiences. I don't think many schools had rigorous systems for monitoring teaching quality back then, & I don't think many had adequate policies on issues like bullying or SN. Most seemed to have a few inspirational teachers, a few utterly incompetent ones, & everything in between.

In terms of the "shit" aspects, comprehensives really didn't have a monopoly. My DH went to an independent school & had teachers who read the newspaper every lesson while the students copied out of books. He had other teachers who threw blackboard rubbers at students. There were teachers who couldn't control their classes, & there was plenty of bullying.

I know people who went to well-known boarding schools where there were really significant levels of drug-taking. There was nothing like that at my northern comp. - just a bit of smoking behind the bike sheds, as far as I'm aware, & a few rumours about glue-sniffers.

TBH I've never met anyone educated in the '70s or '80s, at any UK school, who doesn't have some hair-raising stories to tell about both teacher & student behaviour. There was very little accountability in either the state or private sector.

Quenelle Thu 27-Feb-14 13:47:28

I went to a comp in the early 80s and I did not have a good education. I accept that I was to blame, and my parents definitely weren't as 'engaged' as parents are expected to be now.

But, the school did not turn out confident, ambitious young people. They did not encourage children to go to university, or even to stay for A levels. I don't recall anybody from my year group of 100+ going to university.

The people I knew who went to the school across the playing field from ours had a different attitude. When I was 14/15 I thought they were all bolshy smartalecs. When I started hanging around with some of them at 16+ I realised they were just so much more confident and assured, more like young adults, than we were.

LisaMed Thu 27-Feb-14 13:59:05

In infant school there was 'learning through play' and I just played. I had one (that is, only one single) lesson in reading and when I left at age 7 half the kids couldn't write their name.

The middle school was okayish but though I won a scholarship to a private school the headmaster wouldn't sign the papers because I was a girl.

I then went to a comprehensive where you were not allowed to sit O levels at 16. If you wanted to get O levels you had to stay at least an extra year, you were only allowed to enter CSE. I know of a few who couldn't get their O levels because their parents couldn't afford them to stay on.

I should also mention that the junior school recorded my reading age at 14 when I left there age 11, which is presumably why I was placed in remedial English classes when I went to the comprehensive.

My mother managed to get me into another comprehensive school. This wasn't so bad, apart from a few blind spots. I would have loved to do French at uni but this wasn't to be. There were two teachers taking the French A levels. The year before it had been only one and no-one had passed. My year was a little better. I got the highest grade at D. My other A levels were A, A and B so I am not blaming myself. The teaching from that teacher, looking back as an adult, was appalling.

Even after the better comprehensive I still am completely self taught with English Grammar.

Apart from the second comprehensive I would have been a lot better off even in the failing Academies.

(btw, this is toned down, I could write a novel)

bottlenecker Thu 27-Feb-14 14:00:07

quenelle did we go to the same school? grin

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