The Eleven Plus

In the extracts below Howard Blake, born in 1941 in Coventry, and Billy Rainford, born in 1948 in Liverpool, recall finding out their eleven plus results and their mothers’ reactions:

length of audio clip 42 seconds.

Howard: And Henry the Eighth was a top school, it didn’t get the best out of me but that was my fault, not their fault. And going back to what I was saying, that one of my Mother’s happiest moments within the importance of education that we came back through that with our holidays with our plastic suitcase which by now most probably had a string taped handle on it. And I, we’d get to about the last two hundred yards and I run home cause they knew the results of the eleven plus would be there. And by the time I’ve opened the envelope mother, they’ve arrived and I’m reading it through and mother just puts her finger on it, it says Henry the Eighth and I think that would have been a very happy moment for her.

length of audio 1 min 43 secs.
Billy: How I got in the scouts, the lad next door but one was in the scouts, he’d been in the scouts for a year or two, he was actually a patrol leader and I was desperate to join the scouts and my mother made it a condition that if I passed the eleven plus you can join the scouts and I’ll never forget that day. We were sitting in the classroom and I don’t know why but the teacher had the results for some of the class in envelopes and he handed them out and I remember the lad behind me opened it and he said “oh I’ve passed, I’m going to Toxteth”, to the technical, because you had to put down three schools, a choice of three schools. I never got mine. When I got home it had come and my dad was sitting there having his tea and I said “has it come?” and my dad went yeah and he looked at me and he went [shakes his head]. So I got a bit upset and I went upstairs and I think my mum was a bit disappointed as well but as she said to me later, she said “after you’ve had your tea” she said, “get washed and go to the scouts.” So I said but “you said I had to pass the eleven plus.” She said “never mind”, she said. So that was that, so I had to go and get all kitted out with the uniform and everything.


  1. My own experience with the Eleven-plus was similar or perhaps worse. I was ordered re-tested, and this was done in a Protestant School, rather than Saint Edwards, a Catholic school, in Liverpool where I had taken it first time. Of course in those days there was lots of tension between Catholic and Protestants in Liverpool, and thus the circumstances of the retesting were stressful.

    That same year we left for Cuba, Mother’s homeland, and there I stayed from 1948 to 1961. Through both dictatorships of Batista and Castro, where in I ended up fighting against Batista in the Sierra Maestra and trying to help the resistance against Castro.

    During the Bay of Pigs, my younger sister Leonor and I were arrested as hundreds of thousands of others were at that time. Only the intervention of the British Ambassador Sir Herbert Stanley Marchant released us from prison and allowed us to leave. All this time I did not know that I had passed the Eleven-Plus. and simply presumed my failure.

    It was only soon before her death that Mother told me that I had indeed passed the exam. I do not know why she forgot to tell me, but Father and Mother were separating at the time of the test and that probably occupied most of her mind at the time.

    Laurence S. Daley (Garcia-I~niguez)
    Professor Emeritus
    (Biochemistry, Biophysics and Plant Physiology Germplasm)
    Oregon State University

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