In one corner of the primary school classroom sat a group of children learning from one set of English and mathematics books.

In the other corner another group were being taught something else.

From time to time many of the children glanced across to pupils on the other side of the room.

You see until recently many in the two groups had sat alongside each other and were close friends.

Now in the educational dark ages that was Kent in the 80s their paths were to be forcibly diverged for the rest of their school lives.

You may have guessed by now that the children were not even 12-years old and they had just taken the 11 Plus exam. In one corner was the passers, in the other the failures.

I know about this because I was there, sitting in the latter group.

Back then I was hopeless at the logic-based questions that formed the trunk of the exam (all “if I bought six apples and Jonny bought eight and then sold two for sixpence” etc) and could barely translate the 24 hour clock back into real

time. Still can’t.

I was always going to fail. While my friends were dispatched to the grammar school I was off to the secondary where the emphasis was on learning a trade. British Rail had a regular end-of-term stand in the hall to attract apprenticeships.

Luckily my school had a fantastic English teacher (take a bow Colin Greenland) who managed to inspire me with Shakespeare and HG Wells and set me on a path to at least do something I was moderately equipped to do.

Many of my secondary school friends were not so lucky, their horizons deliberately lowered to feed the voracious beast that was our still healthy manufacturing base in those days.

They were to feed the furnaces while their former grammar school mates would become the managing directors.

I was a late developer I guess like many others but by the time we started to bloom decisions had already been made for us.

The choice of grammar or secondary school dictated what subjects we were taught, what exams we sat and even what sports we played.

And the pressure over the 11 Plus was intense. Mothers talked among themselves about who whose children had passed and whose had not. It is not too far fetched to say it was a source of shame for some to admit failure in the family.

Parents  who could afford it paid for home tuition to cram for the exam. Those who came from poorer families where education was never as important as a job were unlikely to be pushed enough at home to pass.

Yup the 11 Plus perpetrated the class system pretty effectively.

And here’s the truth. It was manifestly obvious to all involved, teachers, parents and pupils that the system was flawed, unfair and potentially devastating for young children.

All knew, although those who passed rarely admitted it, that to divide children at 11, long before many had had the chance to begin to develop a sense of curiosity and intellect, was simply cruel.

What’s worse it actually deprived society of the potential talents of those late bloomers who may have gone on to make greater contributions if they had been given longer and more careful nurturing to find their particular field of expertise.

The 11 Plus destroys the fundamental egalitarian principle that all children should have an equal chance in life, that merit not money should decide station.

A system that does not allow all children to develop throughout their young lives, to find their strengths under the guidance of good teachers, to be streamed as they go through school is not worth a light. It is manifestly far too early

in a child’s life to make such drastic decisions.

Proponents of the 11 Plus say streaming through a single school (the comprehensive system as it used to be known) plays to the lowest common denominator. Sits the bright spark next to the troublemaker.

This is arrant nonsense. By constant appraisal and streaming, vigilance over ongoing development, all children get the chance to make the most of whatever talents they have.

Now new Prime Minister Theresa May has rattled around in the dustbin of British history and has dragged out the 11 Plus as some kind of policy sop to the old non-One Nation Tory party.

I can’t think of a single more retrograde step she could make. Even this 11 Plus failure can work out if you take one and divide it into two you only get half as much as what you could have had.

The Argus: The Lapwing Music Festival is being held at Cuckmere Haven at the Coastguard Cottages

Sublime. It’s the only word I can think to describe it. Imagine the scene. You’re at No 5 Coastguard Cottages, Cuckmere Haven on Sunday lunchtime.

Together with about 40 lucky people you cram into the cottage’s wonderful conservatory as a maestro plays the cello to a background of endless sky, seabirds on the wind and the sound of the tide coming in.

The Lapwing Festival last weekend was the brainchild of the aforementioned cellist Anthony Albrecht. Anthony, an Australian, fell in love with the Haven and set about helping those fighting to save the beauty spot from crumbling into the


It was a privilege to be there and I for one am signing up to Cuckmere Haven SOS, ( the charity set for the battle.