The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

University Then (1959) And Now (2020)

Eager student with a fellow student- now my lovely wife of 57 years..

In 1959 97% of school leavers didn’t get a sniff at university. Even in my selective state grammar school’s 1952 intake a third left at 15 and another third left at 16. Moreover at the end of sixth form only nine of us went on to uni – that was just 10% of the original intake of eleven plus “winners”. Not forgetting that the bulk of my primary school fellow pupils “failed” the 11+ and went on to secondary modern schools.

That was the stark reality of 1950s England where the concept of “failure” was built into the hurdle race that was the key driver of the education process – never publicly acknowledged, of course, but privately accepted in many quarters with much talk of achievement and “stretching”

A lot has changed since those days. A university place for nearly half of school leavers is now the norm. Of our grandchildren Hannah has recently graduated, Oliver is starting his second year and Pippa has just arrived for her first day. No doubt that the youngest two, Evie and Harry will be wending their way shortly.

All these thoughts welled up as I cast my mind back to September 1959 when I arrived at my Leicester University hall of residence in Oadby.. I was a grammar school boy from a South London working class family whose parents had left school at 14 and had never owned a house or a car but but both were autodidacts who treasured reading and learning and study and encouraged me to make a bid for university.

I suddenly found myself, for the first time in my life amidst a bunch of people I had never met before….some of them even had northern or Welsh accents!!!! Most of us had trickled in during the day. We had our first evening meal then, afterwards, we sat around in the common room. After an initial burst of chatter we all became quiet, lost in our own thoughts. My own mind suddenly wished that I was back home, having tea with my mum and dad in familiar surroundings.

Why the hell, I asked myself, had I got myself involved in all this? I was absolutely homesick.

Then suddenly someone shouted “Let’s all go down to the pub!!!!”

My homesickness instantly evaporated – and never appeared again. I was now a fully fledged university student – the first ever from my family – and I was now going to enjoy it to the full….

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