Three Grammars.... and a Technical
Jon Bratton writes...
Let me tell you of this theory of mine. Well, this theory that I have--that is to say, which is mine-- ...is mine. And may be wrong. But I don’t think so
Gateshead Council has been ruled by Labour since time began and would have aspired to comprehensive education from the end of WWII. Clement Atlee, Labour Prime Minister from 1945 until 1951 had comprehensive welfare reform on his mind as well as nationalisation and a nuclear bomb
From 1951 until 1964 there was the Tory rule of Winnie, Mac and Home and not until Labour’s Wilson in 1964 was Comprehensive Education back on the agenda and sure enough it happened 3 years later
It has been alleged that in the post WWII years there was a Baby Boom and there certainly was in USA, Canada and Australia but the birth rate figures for the UK do not support a boom. The census figure for new births in 1921-31 is 824, 000 and for 1951-61 is 839, 000. That’s a tiny change. (There was no census in 1941 so the census period 1931-51 does not give a meaningful figure) There was a small blip in 1958 when that Year Group had five forms but that had never happened before or since. In particular there remained only four forms in the decade 1945 (end of the war) to 1955 (Girls Grammar opened). If there was a baby boom of any significant size there would have had to be an increase in the number of forms or a drastic increase in difficulty in the Scholarship or 11 plus examinations. No evidence of either
In that 13 year period of Tory rule Gateshead’s Labour controlled Council, with no drastic change in birth rate, went from one Grammar School with an intake of 120 to 3 Grammar Schools* with a presumed intake of 360. Add, I'm guessing, 120 who went to the Central (later Elgin Secondary Technical) it would seem that almost every Gateshead kid, raised on milk, became la creme de la creme. Here comes the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.
Gateshead Council Officials (against the doctrine of Labour members) introduced increased Selective Education by stealth. But they didn't think it through. It was inevitable that the Labour Party, sooner or later, would gain Government power and would impose a comprehensive system. Comprehensives require much larger school sites and Gateshead now had a large number of recently built smaller specialist sites. They had to go for split sites which they cobbled together under the "Luxton-Wheatley Plan", named after the hapless elected Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Education Committee.
*Gateshead Boys Grammar, 1954 Gateshead Girls Grammar, 1961 Heathfield Co-Ed Grammar. I have presumed 4 forms of 30 in each Year group
Robert Best, a Gateshead teacher, has commented
"The push for comprehensives came just after Gateshead had completed a new schools building program all the Gateshead sec mods and grammar schools. I remember passing the old grammar school building on a daily basis when I was travelling Hartlepool to Newcastle 1950's -early 1960's ...............when the new "clasp" building on Prince Consort Road was finished the total intake to all the Gateshead grammar schools was approximately 45-50% meaning passing 11+ no longer meant you had to be an egghead, in fact if your IQ was just above average then likely you would get a grammar school place ............ if you did not get a place you went to schools like Hillhead, Greenwell, etc ... these new buildings were not big enough to become proper comprehensives since they all had been built around 500 pupils, so the only way to suddenly impose a comprehensive system was to have split site schools with newly named junior highs for 1st to 3rd years linked to senior highs for 4th years upwards, Hillhead being linked to Saltwell etc ... it was of course doomed for failure from the start as all educationalists with any common sense predicted. For example 1968-69 when the leaving age was still 15, pupils from the junior highs were only at the senior high for 2 terms, and even after that only 5 terms, not enough time to teach the CSE or GCE syllabuses to a good standard in the senior highs......so decline in discipline and exam results with some of the schools having a 5 subject GCE pass rate as low as 5% ..... but the labour council kept it going for around 20 years to avoid ever admitting they had made a big mistake ...... I recollect being told that all state schools nationally would have to go comprehensive but this was not true ....