Friday, June 24, 2011

Purple power

Hurrah for the Purple Poofters. The front page of today's paper carries the happy news that Colchester Royal Grammar School won the Times Spelling Bee competition yesterday, sealing the title by spelling "chrysalis" correctly. As an Old Colcestrian, I'm delighted and more than a little envious.

No Spelling Bees in my day, not even a Spelling Gnat, but being able to rite propa was drilled into us from the first year with Mad Fred Evans, the Cuban heels-wearing chemistry teacher and first-form master, setting us weekly spelling tests after taking the register. Chrysalis (not to be confused with crystal) was a Fred favourite.

I am always grateful that I had the chance to go to CRGS, a state school in name and funding but a private school in output and ethos that regularly spanks the top fee-paying schools in the exam league tables. It was good in my day, with 13 pupils in my year of 100 going to Oxbridge, but is now jaw-droppingly good. Last year, 41 CRGS pupils were offered places at Oxford or Cambridge.

Opponents of grammar schools hate it because it creams off the brightest children at 11, weakening the quality of the other schools; others argue that it gives a chance purely on the basis of intelligence rather than class or the state of their parents' bank account. It is elitist, but based on potential and ability rather than money. Why is that a bad thing?

Anyway, the pupils suffer in other ways thanks to the distinctive purple blazer, with French mottoes on the breast pocket depending on house. It made you stand out in Colchester; since it is a garrison town that was not necessarily a good thing. "Purple poofter" was a regular shout from the oiks at the comprehensive school. They were probably just jealous. Most of them couldn't even spell poofter.


Angus Donald said...

Hear, hear! Bring back grammar schools, I say

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