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Public and personal histories: 11+

2012 March 16
Millfields school

Authors in their infant classroom

A Nation’s Moment and a Teacher’s Mark Book: Interconnecting Personal and Public Histories

This article I wrote jointly with Brenda Kirsch in the book I edited with Paul Ashton, People and their Pasts, arose from me being given the mark book of the teacher who had taught us in the year we had successfully sat the 11+ in a Hackney primary school. He had also kept a collection of children’s poems (including my own pretentious oevre on Ralph Vaughan Williams!) It listed the marks of children in the weekly tests we undertook to prepare for the exam in a range of subjects – and brought back various memories. We were shocked to find that 11+ exam papers had  not been routinely kept by the LCC. There seemed to be a mismatch with the importance the exam (still) has in the nation’s psyche and the lack of ‘status’ accorded to it in archives. Far from being just a personal story this was one of a particular moment in the nation as well.

I also realised that the commonplace photos I possessed that my father had taken in the course of open days were very much of their time and, no doubt, such a activity today would land the photographer in court.

Buy in the new paperback edition called Public History and Heritage Today . People and their Pasts : Palgrave


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