Recording an Education from The Good Old Days

At KEGS we have three filing cabinets containing the school record cards of all the students who attended from the mid 1930s through to the early 1980s.  I’ve used them to comic effect at Old Boys’ dinners, reading out the records of some of the ex-KEGS students, now in their 60s and 70s, who attended the school in the 1950s and 60s.  It is fascinating to see what was recorded over the years.  Here is one example.

The front page:

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It’s interesting to note the traditional curriculum that is pretty much unchanged in 50 years. English and Maths; History and Geography, French – Latin in the first two years but then dropped.  Religious Instruction fades about by the Third Form. General Science in the first two years moves into separate sciences; David picked an interesting sounding ‘Physics and Chemistry’ course for O Level. He did Art throughout, Music in the early years and one year of Woodwork.  PT was a constant with Swimming in the Lower School. I’m not sure what Fg is.

In terms of assessment, David is ranked by ‘position in class’ – fluctuating from 10th to 23rd out of 37 across the years. He also gets an overall ‘General Assessment’ of a B grade, presumably based on an average of the others.  Note the confident minus and plus grades.  B- and C+ dominate; As were clearly out of David’s reach for the most part.

I like the record of ‘milk and meals’. David had milk in the First Form, but not beyond that.  This was a standard Essex report card; KEGS didn’t use the IQ standardised tests that were available and eye sight, hearing and ‘other defects’ are not recorded for most students in the archive.

The back page:

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I find this fascinating. O Levels were recorded simply as Pass or Fail.  David passed O Levels in English Language and Literature, History, French and Art. He failed Geography and Physics and Chemistry. He also failed Elementary Maths – three times.  He took it in July, December and again the next July and never passed.  However, he did gain A levels in History and Geography (despite not passing the O level). Having taken English Lit A level, he only managed an “O level” pass.  Lots of the report cards are similar. s A smattering of a few O levels each and lots of re-takes. One Old Boy famously took French five times. It wasn’t uncommon.

What I love is that in this bastion of traditional values, the school also recorded ‘Personality etc’ on the report form.  Students were graded for Self Confidence, Initiative, Application, Sociability, Reliability, Cooperation, Speech Articulation and Fluency – alongside General Conduct and Behaviour.  This aspect of the reports fades towards the end of the 1960s and into the 70s. The grading is bizarre.  N is ‘normal’.  I can’t work what O stands for but it meant a deficit of some kind.  A ‘+’ indicates a special characteristic. David was N+ for co-operation in the Third Form and O for Self-Confidence in the First Form.

There’s also a nice record of David’s involvement in the Book Club and the Historical Association.  Others have sports teams, debating and various other activities recorded.  Lord (Paul) Hanningfield (now an infamous Old Boy) has ‘pig breeding’ recorded as his special interest, reflecting his upbringing on a farm.

In the early 80s the record cards stop as computers took over. And, guess what – the records are lost! What we have is a wonderful treasure trove of individual stories captured on these cards.  You can’t help feeling we’ve lost something; at the same time, there is a timeless aspect to our educational values over that time: A broad base curriculum; some specialisation later on and attention to the ‘whole person’ where wider interests and personal characteristics matter.  These days KEGS students do 12/13 GCSEs and 4/5 A levels – it’s more intense and pressurised, even without the explicit ranking – but the basic structure of school life hasn’t really changed.

Update:  I’ve had a look at the records for some of our famous alumni:  Alongside Lord Hanningfield we have Grayson Perry and Lord (Norman) Fowler among others. Each one is fascinating, knowing now how their careers have taken shape.  I’d need permission to share them – but will do if I get it.

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