Chapter VII

Entrance Examinations


IN MAY, 1952, I functioned at my last entrance examination.

It is not an easy job to be in chief control of a large room containing about 80 of the smallest boys—a room whose acoustic properties are not of the best. This year there were fewer tears shed than usual.

We know the heart-burnings on the part of most parents and many boys, and sometimes the anxiety shown by the parents tends to make the youngsters nervous, then they do not do justice to themselves. I have heard of quite big bribes offered beforehand to boys if they are successful in passing the examination.

This year there was an arithmetic paper lasting one hour (I corrected these papers solidly all the afternoon and until 7-30 p.m. One boy got 100 per cent), an intelligence test lasting half an hour. That actually contained some riddles, one boy told me he did not approve of that question! Then the reading of each boy has to be tested—three of us do that—and, in passing, we talk to the boys and try to make them feel at ease.

IT IS VERY interesting meeting boys whose brothers are in the school and now, after long service, I meet sons of boys I have taught. (Not quite ‘Mrs. Chips’—I shall not teach their grandsons). The quick passage of years is brought home most vividly in this way.

Nowadays we have always fewer vacancies than there are boys sitting for the examination. It was not always so. A boy should definitely be able to read and write before he takes the examination.

Sometimes we get boys so nervous and tearful that they need, and cannot have, personal attention and cheering all the time. We occasionally get over-confident ones who try to run the examination for us! Two or three years ago one boy was sitting near the door of the Upper School. The door was open. Enter the Headmaster. The boy said in a loud voice: “There’s an awful draught from that door.” The Headmaster meekly asked someone to shut it!

I TRUST THAT I am not giving away valuable secrets if I tell that one of the arithmetic questions asked what would be the price of school dinners for a week of five days at 1s. 2d. a time. One boy wrote £100—Phew!

The ‘essay’ I remember best was an eight-year-old’s attempt on ‘How I should spend a Hundred Pounds’. I looked over his shoulder and read: “If I had a hundred pounds, I should buy a gun and shoot father”. Then he was going on to shoot the rest of the family. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Yes, the words were really there. So, very horror-stricken, I asked if he really meant it and he answered cheerfully “Yes”. He must have noticed how shocked I was for he went on to explain that he would not shoot them dead. This boy, the eldest of three brothers who all came to Leeds Grammar School, won the Junior Botany Competition about a year later. He used to bring specimens in an enormous hat box of his father’s, he was never stumped for a name. He is now a doctor and must have at least £100, but I have never heard of his shooting any of the family!

A little time ago I came across a well-known name—I had taught two brothers of that name 30 years ago. The small boy was the son of the younger brother. So I claimed acquaintance and said: “Your father used to come to school here.” “Yes”, said the boy, “but he has left now.”

In reply to an impertinent question of mine: “What is your father?”—meaning to get his profession or trade—I was told, “A man.” I wonder if that was a snub!

I WAS TOLD this tale by a brother of one of the candidates, who was quite nervous before the examination. He arrived home smiling and cheerful and said: “Just as I was coming out of that big room a little voice in the corner said: ‘It’s all right Chrispin, you’ve passed your examination.’” The voice was right. That boy’s imagination should take him far.


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