secondary modern


Senior Member
This is an extract from the novel A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinsons.

Nancy returned to work when Viola herself started at the village primary school, taking a part-time job in a nearby expensive private Church of England boarding school for girls who had failed their Eleven Plus but whose parents couldn’t countenance the social humiliation of a secondary modern.

Would you like to explain the meaning of the word "secondary modern" to me? Thank you.
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, until the 1970s, after completing primary school at around age 11, pupils would move into mainly two kinds secondary schools; those who did well in their Eleven Plus (exam at age 11+) would go to grammar schools (the academic stream), and those who didn't would go to secondary modern schools. They could bypass the system by going to private ('independent' or 'public') schools - hence the reference to the expensive private Church of England boarding school for girls).

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't know whether it is relevant in the context, but secondary moderns still exist in Kent, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire in England, and by default in a few local areas where there are clusters of grammar schools, such as Trafford and the Wirral. Few, if any, of these are actually called "Secondary Modern" in their name.

    Another note, although some fee-paying schools in England are called "public schools", it is highly unlikely that this is the case with the school where Nancy works, which is a "private school", as the author describes. Quite honestly, the variety and names of different types of school in Britain is baffling, and if you are interested you could waste many hours on Wikipedia trying to understand it all.
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