06 October 2008

In the first year at Grammar School in 1963

So many new things to learn: parsing, theorems, contours, declensions, hockey, javelin-throwing, threading a sewing machine…and later on, magnetic poles, precipitation, dinghy sailing, paper sculpture, soused herrings, and Rumanian dancing, among other things.

Recently I managed to decipher our first year timetable from a sheet in my geometry set*, and it looks pretty hefting stuff for a bunch of eleven-year-olds. Day 1 was the real killer: Maths, Geography, French, History, Latin, English, and more French, all in the same room. The other days did at least have a small amount of moving about, and some less academic subjects (double Art on Day 2, Singing and PE on 3, Art and Music on 4, double Games on 5, and double Needlework on 6, although it’s debatable how much light relief some of that was). This was a rotating timetable, which I can't believe was unique to my school, but I've never heard of anyone else using it: first week days 1-5, second week days 61234, and so on).

*The geometry set was, needless to state, a proper one, with a pair of compasses which had a good long sharp metal point, and a pair of dividers which had two good long sharp metal points (all the better to prod things with, my dear). I recently bought the current version by the same maker (Helix) – the compasses have a pathetically tiny point, to the extent that I’m surprised it holds position on the paper at all, and the dividers are conspicuous by their absence. It does at least still come in a metal box, not a plastic one, which was a pleasant surprise, although you don’t get the nice stencil with the retorts and flasks and things any more (presumably because nobody in their right minds is going to let the little dears loose with real scientific experiments and equipment these days).


Jilly said...

Like you I have never come across another school using the 6 day timetable. In fact if I'm foolish enough to mention it I'm usually greeted by looks of stunned incomprehension and have to explain the mechanics of it. It seems simple to me - apparently not to other people.

NAM said...

I know - and the comment (if any, beyond the incomprehension) is invariably "But surely you were all always getting muddled and turning up in the wrong lessons?" which was just we didn't, of course. Like you, it seems simple enough to me, and the numbers were always up in the Hall anyway. What intrigues me is who thought it up and why: I suppose it was a fairly crafty way of speading the facilities a bit thinner!

Jilly said...

I think I asked someone - coming new to it as I did the the 4th year (which year would that be now?, why it was done. The answer was it gave the school a chance to fit in more subjects - which I suppose it did. Not sure that was the real reason but there we are. It must have achieved its purpose as it seems to have been pretty long lasting.

NAM said...

Oh, interesting - what a helpful person you are, Jilly! Coming to it in the first year I just accepted it along with all the other new and strange stuff. Yes, I think it did succeed, though I remember a couple of anomalies that were probably caused by it: a Music lesson every six days remained compulsory for some of us at 'O' level, and there were fewer lessons in one of the 'A' level pools in the sixth.

We did have the more normal five-day kind of timetable in my second and third years, so we'd only just gone back to it (with some relief on my part) in the 4th year (which in current terminology is Year Eleven, I think). I suspect it was originally the brainchild of some Maths whizz on the staff - they did the timetables with algorithms, apparently, which makes my brain hurt just to think about it.