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New Left Review I/11, September-October 1961

Brian Jackson

Notes from Two Primary Schools

at the education offices they showed me a map, and pointed out the schools where there were vacancies. That was the first time I’d heard of Abbeyford. I liked the idea at once: a small fenland village with only a hundred children at the school. Not that the officials at County Hall approved of my choice: they didn’t. “What about a secondary school?” they said; “We need men there, and if you’ve got any qualifications you’ll have a graded post and allowance in no time—in some of these primary schools you might just disappear.” But no, in a rather unclear way, I had come for a primary school post, and nothing else. “Very well then, what about Hixton school? You could probably have the top A stream next year if Mr. Ashby leaves, and you’d certainly get the first XI for either cricket or football.” Again I demurred: that wasn’t what I was attracted by in the primary school at all. Some further talk of “the first XI” (small 10 year old boys being coached in the rudiments and proprieties of cricket) seemed of relevance to everyone there except me. Of course that was merely my innocence—a couple of later interviews with education officers who ruthlessly questioned me on my Army record and my ability to play rugger, as prime qualifications for teaching seven year old children, have now left me a little wiser. Well, I don’t remember these conversations verbatim, but odd phrases stick in the mind, and this was the kind of reception I met. I expect it goes on all the time. I imagine that graduates in particular can have a genuinely hard time getting into primary schools.

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