Mike Cassels Joins Us

Our latest old boy to join the Register is Mike Cassels from Sheffield (1967 – 1972) who emailed us with a query which I am sure somebody will have the answer to:

I’ve just been browsing the CVTHS site and wanted to ask you a quick question please to settle a debate I’ve been having with a few fellow old boys. I started at Cray Valley in 1967, but I don’t think I’ve ever known why I went there or what the process was that took me there. I know I sat the 11 plus exam, but I don’t think I’ve ever known whether I passed or failed it. It’s not a big deal at all and I can’t say I’ve ever been bothered about it but I’m curious. My older brother went to Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School and I’ve never really known why some sort of magical sorting hat sent me somewhere else – but maybe it’s a truth I’m better off not knowing! I never asked my parents and unfortunately, it’s now too late.
So my question is whether you know what the entry criteria for the school were around the late 1960s – was it only open to boys who had passed the 11 plus (as my friend Colin Wilkins thinks) or did it have a broader intake?

I can’t see anything that answers this on the history and wondered if you knew.



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About CVTHS Admin

Admin is Colin Cadle - colin@cvths.com

27 responses »

  1. Paul Towell says:

    I was at Cray Valley from 1968-75. I had been told that I had passed the 11+ and was promised a place at St. Olave’s Grammar School. Then they decided that I should go to CVTHS. At the time I was devastated, but in those days parents didn’t argue with the Local Education Authority. Now I know it was the best thing that could have happened to me and I’m glad of their foresight!

    Like

  2. John Kay says:

    Back in 1957, I was told that I had passed the 11 plus, but then attended an interview at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, with 3 or 4 headmasters, to see whether I was best suited to a grammar or technical school. As my junior school headmaster told my parents afterwards,” if he wants to find out how something works, he reads a book, then it’s a grammar school: if on the other hand he wants to take it apart to find out, then it’s a technical school and John prefers taking things apart”. I don’t imagine the thoughts changed in the following ten years, so hope this is of some help.
    John Kay,
    Teignmouth, Devon.
    1957- 1962

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  3. Malcolm Davis says:

    Like John Kay, I was interviewed at Bexley Grammar after my 11 plus and I think my parents were afterwards “advised” that I was going to Cray. And like Paul Towell, it was the best thing that could have happened to me too. I doubt that schoos like Cray exist now.
    Malcolm Davis
    Northaim East Sussex
    1958-1963

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  4. Peter M Jenkins says:

    Almost unbelievably I still have the letter from the Kent Education Committee of the result of my 11+. It doesn’t state specifically whether I passed or not but simply states that “The Committee has decided after careful consideration of your son’s ability and aptitude to offer him a place in September next in a Technical High School.” It is a preprinted form with my name and type of school typed in the blank spaces provided.
    At the time, 1963, the closest was Bromley Technical High but I remember my father insisting that I went to Cray Valley even though it was further away. He was a teacher at Charterhouse Sec Mod in Orpington and I guess he knew a bit about the standards of the various schools in the district (and also far too many of the teachers at Cray). For myself, I was a bit devastated at the time as all my friends from primary school seemed to be off to different grammars making me feel a bit of a failure. All turned out well in the end though.

    John, love your anecdote on how to decide between a grammar school and a technical school.

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  5. rglindsey says:

    I was a Founder Pupil, and was interviewed by JCK before being assigned to the then CVTS. At the time I thought I was not a “clear” (grammar) pass in the 11+, but the school had the edge on grammars. It offered a grammar education and a technical one. Just look at the achievements of my fellow cohort.

    If anyone can offer a “near Official” answer to the question , it Robert Kingsland, whose Dad is the revered JCK. Great man.

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  6. Adrian Moore says:

    I cannot say for the latter half of the sixties but in the early part it was by sitting the divisive 11+. The school recommended for me was St. Olaves (it was intending to relocate to Orpington, but that took a very long time) and as my father came from Bermondsey, where it was at that time, he considered it the best school around. I knew, even at that tender age that CVTHS would be better for me and I was adamant that I should go there instead. Probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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  7. Ian Franks says:

    I started at CVTHS in 1964. I passed the 11+ and my parents were told to select 3 grammar schools and 1 tech, so CV was their last choice. No regrets here, though. My sister went to a grammar but dropped out before the GCE exams.

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  8. mikecassels says:

    I think I might have answered my own question by a bit of Googling. I found this in a Wikipedia article about the Technical Schools created under Butler’s 1944 Education Act. Under this Act the new Technical Schools were free to determine their own selection criteria but… “Kent was one authority that embraced the changes and implemented the system according to the letter of the law. These schools were invariably single sex, and usually recruited their entrants from the lower end of the ‘selective’ band (as measured at the age of 11).” So Wikipedia suggests that the 11 Plus wasn’t just a ‘pass or fail’ but in some way graded​ and that as former pupils we all passed – but maybe with slightly lower scores than the academically top 25% who were allocated places at Grammar schools. Although as I type this I can’t help but think of some of the exceptionally bright boys in my cohort who went on to significant success and who would be in anybody’s top 25%.

    Thanks for the responses. None yet from anybody who thinks they failed at 11 – so I reckon that satisfies my curiosity; we all passed. Nice to know after all these years!

    Mike

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  9. Graham Price says:

    I joined in 1965 and I passed the eleven plus. I had choices for schools including Chislehurst and Sidcup grammar and CVTHS. I’m sure my first choice was the grammar school but I ended up at CVTHS as I only lived a few hundred yards from there. I hope this helps.
    I believe now it was the best school for me and I loved my time there.

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  10. Ivan Couchman 1964-71 says:

    I passed the 11 plus & was offered places at a whole list of schools including Dartford Grammar, Dulwich College & Cray Valley. My mum wanted to me to go to Dulwich but I said it was too far away & didn’t​ want them burdened financially. My cousin Kevin was at Cray & when I went there I really liked it & I preferred the red/black & white to the horrible Green of Dartford Grammar. Had I have gone there I might have met Mick Jagger! I ended up in the music industry at one stage so it wasn’t so far stretched. Never regretted going to Cray but my selection method left something to be desired.

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    • Dave Castell says:

      Ivan, Dartford Girls were green, the boy’s school was horrible maroon. I think we were of the few who came from Farningham Hill CPS so most of our primary mates would have gone to Dartford Grammar or Tech. Intereating from an equality perspective to reflect that Kent’s provision of selective places for girls in 1955 was so poor that none of my year passed at 11+ but some moved to Sidcup Tech for secretarial at 13+, including a Couchman! . Thankfully things have improved for our daughters !

      Like

    • Barry Jackson says:

      Like your good self Ivan I recall that having passed my 11+ my parents received a letter listing both Technical and Grammar schools as well as Dulwich College, places I would be entitled to apply for in the September of 1959. Like yourself the financial burden of schooling at Dulwich was prohibitive. My parents took advice of my master at Grays Farm, who suggested that as I had a leaning toward mathematics (arithmetic at that level) a technical school would be more suitable for me. They then had to list their preferences, fortunately Cray Valley, their first choice accepted me. I can’t for the life of me remember going for a pre-entry inquisition, perhaps the grey matter is finally slowing down.
      One thing I do remember, is that there must have been an allocation of places based on location as the follow year a friend named David Walsh who lived across the road from me, no further than 90 yards away (226 ft actually) had to be content, if that’s possible, with a place at Dartford Tech (sometime residence of Keith Richard) because, he was informed, he lived outside the catchment area for that year’s intake.
      By the way Ivan you may have missed out on a meeting with the aforementioned Michael Philip Jagger because he started at Dartford in 1954! and presumably had long gone before a whippersnapper like you commenced your senior education.

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  11. Adrian Appley says:

    I passed the 11 + exam in 1953 and went for an interview at Bromley Grammar school in Hayes Lane but failed it when I mispronounced at least one of the words in a list. Two years later I passed what I assume was the 13 + exam and interview and started at CVTS for 4 years.

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  12. Graham Mitchell says:

    An interesting question this. I had my sights firmly set on CVTHS when I took the 11+. At the time I knew some who were already at the school and, believe it or not, liked the look of the uniform! My 11+ pass stipulated I was suited to a technical school and the rest, as they say is history. When I interviewed Peter Woodward a few years back he commented on the loyalty shown to the school by its ‘old boys’ despite its relatively short life, and made comparison with that shown by the luminaries of some public schools. As others have said in responding to this post, it was definitely the right school for me.

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  13. Mike Schmidt says:

    I was at CVTHS from 1960-67 and I was told that I failed the 11+ but not completely and that a place was available there as there was no room at the Bromley equalivent at Bromley Common and so I spent a great 7 years there with travel paid by the local authority from my home in Southborough, Bromley.

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  14. John FitzPatrick says:

    I just passed my 11+ and we, my parents and I, had selected Dulwich College, Bexley Grammar and CVTS as our three choices. Fortunately for me Dulwich weren’t interested and I had and interview at Bexley which I failed as I have always been practical and I didn’t read books, I was more interested in getting my Dad’s old motor bike working. I was interviewed by JK and obviously found suitable and I joined CVTS in 1959.

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  15. Neil Gent says:

    I joined CVTS in 1959 after an interview jointly conducted by JCK and the Head of Sidcup & Chis Grammar, held in the Head’s study at the Grammar. I was told that I had “passed” 11+ but that my aptitude for which school was not clear from the result. I was asked various questions, most of which I don’t remember, but I do remember JCK throwing an arithmetic fractions question at me, I answered very quickly, but incorrectly (I wasn’t told this, but realised it myself a few moments later in the middle of another question). I interrupted the questioner and gave the correct answer to the maths question, which raised two sets of raised eyebrows and two smiles. Finally I was asked by JCK ,which school I preferred to go to and answered clearly and directly “Cray Valley, sir” – an answer which deeply upset my mum, who was with me, she had long envisaged me in the purple blazer of the Grammar. Anyway, it didn’t take long for the letter to arrive assigning me to CVTS. I have no idea which aspects of the interview (if any) settled the matter. I was not an outstanding schoolboy and I’m sure I didn’t take full advantage of CVTS, however I did appreciate being there and still to this day believe I had a good education at a fine establishment. I think I would have failed spectacularly at the Grammar due to the almost total absence of any pure academic motivation within me at that age, John Kay’s anecdote definitely applied to me.

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  16. Derek Nash says:

    There were certainly “graded” 11+ passes in 1958 when I took mine. A few in my Junior (as it was then) class got secondary choice lists that included Dulwich and Eltham colleges, some got grammar/technical school choices and others got Secondary Modern choices only. I got offered the whole lot. My academic peak, I went down hill from there.

    My sister was already at Chis. and Sid. Girls and struggling with Latin so I knew grammar was not for me.

    Don’t remember why or how but I’d visited Cray Valley Tech. and having seen the workshops and the art room (and met Leo Walmsley!) I just wanted to go there, so Cray Valley Tech. went down as my first choice.

    Derek Nash.

    Like

    • Adrian Moore says:

      Hi Derek, you lived two doors up from me and later on I taught your daughter at Bullers Wood. How is she? Adrian.

      Like

      • Derek Nash says:

        Hello Adrian I wondered if it was you when i saw your name come up but wasn’t aware that you had gone to Cray Valley. You would have been a few year later than me as I was a contemporary of your brother, Tony.

        Lucy is fine. Now a (frightening) 31 y.o. and presently teaching in a specialist ASD school in Lewisham. Derek.

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  17. John Love says:

    I also passed the 11+ in 1957 and had a choice of Chis. and Sid. or CVTHS. I recall my parents spoke to my Junior School Headmaster (East Wickham – Mr. Tanner) and he thought I would be better settled at CV, and am I grateful that he did – although I was not exactly a ‘social animal’ and did not mix very well or enjoy sport, I thoroughly enjoyed my years at CV.

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  18. dodgedavo says:

    Hi Mike,
    My recollection was you had to pass the 11+. My options were Chris & Sid or Cray Valley if I passed, Edgebury if I failed. I didn’t want to wear a purple blazer so I chose Cray Valley.
    Hope you’re well, 1T was a long time ago!
    Cheers,
    Roger

    Like

    • Mike Cassels says:

      Hello Roger and yes – just over 50 years ago. Bloody hell that’s scary! I’m sure neither of us have changed at all though.

      Best wishes,
      Mike

      Like

  19. Chris Smith says:

    I was at Latton Bush Grammer School in Harlow Essex and when my parents moved to Sidcup in 1964 for a new job at STC Footscray. I was interviewed by Mr Kingsland in his office. I had taken the 11 plus exam and showed an interest in science and building flying model aircraft and a member of the Cosmo Aeromodeling Club at Hurst Place, Bexley, Kent plus Elliott Engineering Club in Rochester.
    I think this interest in engineering allowed me to join CVTHS and spend most of my spare time playing around with model glow plug engines to the annoyance of Mr Carr on his rugby field.

    Chris Smith

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    • David Hewick says:

      I took my 11+ in 1954 and was told I was a ”borderline candidate”. I then had an interview at Bromley Grammar School which I ‘failed’ and was consequently assigned to CVTS. So I was channelled away from a rather more arts based syllabus to what was a more demanding science and engineering one.

      These days mathematics, physics and chemistry (STEM subjects) are considered some of the most demanding and desirable subjects, but which many students want to avoid in higher education. At CVTS, in the Sixth Forms, we got these subjects in spades with many pupils getting good passes and distinctions.

      The ‘arts’ subjects (English, English Lit., French/German, History/Geography, Arts & Crafts) were not neglected although the Arts sixth form in my time only comprised (I think) 3 pupils. The only thing that would have been different if I had gone to a grammar school would have been getting a another foreign language (French/German/Latin).

      I am eternally grateful for receiving my education at CVTS and to my fellow pupils whose competitive efforts helped to spur me on. Ironically, I failed that most technical of subjects at O-Level viz. Technical Drawing. And I am still useless at DIY (clearly exhibited at school woodwork and metalwork classes).

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      • Paul Douglas says:

        I think I had a rather different route into CVTHS…I failed the dreaded 11+ in 1960 and did two years at Edgebury sec. mod. I felt an utter failure. Little was expected of me. I then went for interview with Mr. Kingsland and transferred to CVTHS at the beginning of the third year, in old money. Expectations of me were then very different and so ,of course, I duly responded.

        Although I have always appreciated technical skills and knowledge which I gained at Cray Valley, my career ambitions gravitated towards social science. After following a degree course and post-grad study I subsequently followed a rewarding and challenging career in the probation service.

        The reason I have dilated a bit about my own story is to illustrate how so much of what we do, and become, springs from what is expected of us. My experience of the state school system convinced me of the absurdity of differentially assigning youngsters to one of three artificial categories of ability at a young age. We all know that it was a way of conferring privilege for the few whilst consigning the majority to fewer opportunities, let alone the emotional cost. All this is writ large in the wake of much criticism which came to be levelled at Cyril Burt’s methodology and dubious analysis of the data.

        Rant over!

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        • Barry Jackson says:

          Well, rant or no rant, I tend to agree with your sentiments Paul, especially in the light of Burt’s apparent (should that be actual?) falsification of data to enable him to draw some of his conclusions. I believe you are one of many whose ability to cope with the so called rigours of secondary education were completely misjudged at the age of 11. Am I correct in thinking you went on to obtain 8 GCE “O” Level passes? ,which of course would put you amongst the high achievers group at CVTHS. Of course, the data I have doesn’t indicate the grade of the passes . My 7 passes average out at Grade 3 , does that make me more intelligent or better at retaining information than a classmate who obtained 5 passes , but all at Grade 1?
          As mentioned before, I think I reached a point at around about 18 when my ability to process the facts thrown at me started to deteriorate . One of the big questions is of course if you don’t have selection at 11 years of age, when if at all do you select, after all even secondary modern schools “streamed”, and unless you’re very fortunate someone is always making choices for you. CVTHS was no different , with colleagues dropping some subjects of study after 2 years. Results , on passes alone show that some boys performed badly in the system , whilst other children not passing the 11+ would have benefitted from that education or at least the chance to sit GCE’s if given the opportunity.
          The old phrase of ” slow learner” springs to mind, whatever that means. I learned many things at CVTHS, many I’ve now forgotten, some I remember and have little need of ,except answering dumb downed quiz show questions.
          The lessons I learned were – I was lucky to go to CVTHS and a realisation that most importantly I was happy were. I dread to think that I could have spent 5 years or more detesting every minute.
          As far as Sir Cyril Burt goes I’m reminded of one of my lecturers boldly suggesting that ” Psychologists and Psychiatrists were people who suffered from a mental illness, the manifestation of which was the delusion that they had the ability to cure other people’s mental illness”

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