Form 1R - Hampden Secondary School
Form 1R

1959 - 1960

Jean Rook at CuffleyIn September 1959, I took the same five minute walk from my house to Little Oxhey Lane. But this time instead of crossing the road, to Woodhall Junior School, with the help of the lollypop lady, I turned right into Hampden School gates. There were inevitably a bunch of fourth form boys ready to torment the new arrivals.

The intake that year must have been large because there were six forms making up the first year. Streaming took place and my form, under Jean Rook, was place 5th from the top. Within days, it had been pointed out by at least one teacher that we really were failures for not having passed the 11+. I thought that was a bit rich since I for one had not even been given the opportunity to take the exam, it was just assumed that I would not pass. The teachers seemed to exist at the poles of two extremes, either they too were failures who couldn't get a job in a better school or they were genuinely committed to improving our chances. Fortunately for me, I had a preponderance of the second variety. Indeed the teacher who took the form streamed below ours had actually been taught at the school before becoming qualified, now that is commitment.

In hindsight, the large intake of 11+ failures would suggest that although adequate provision in school places was provided on the estate, far too little Grammar school provision was made for Watford district as a whole. Both Hampden School (with 400 pupils) and Clarendon School (with 2,000 pupils) were designated as Secondary Modern schools. The only Grammar school in the area was Watford Grammar, which must have been flooded with baby boomers from Watford as well as all the surrounding catchment, Oxhey being not the only new estate growing at the time. In such an environment, it seems hardly surprising that I was denied the 11+ when it was likely that much more able students than me would be refused a place at grammar school because places were being rationed.

Little of the year seems to be particularly memorable. There was a school production that Ms Rook decided some of us lads would appear in. We were to be Morris Dancers. By the end of her coaching in dancing I suspect that she regretted having suggested it, despite hours of practice we just could not master the steps.

John Kemps Wager 1960 John Kemps Wager 1960




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