I ended the first part of this article (see Nostalgia August 4) by describing how due to shortcomings in my primary school education I failed the so-called 11-plus examination.

I knew I was average because teachers would send my Annual Report home to my parents.

They were able to summarise my efforts over the last year with words such as ‘average’,’ fair ‘, or 'very fair’.

My parents were very happy to know that I was average.

However my school was traditionally associated with Eton College and were offered two bursaries a year.

As the senior choir boy at St Laurence Church, I was a offered a place to join Eton as a chorister.

When my mother heard the news, her immediate reply was ‘People like us do not go to Eton’. So the offer was rejected and I continued my education at the Slough and Eton Secondary School.

So I moved on to the newly built secondary school ready to take it easy with the rest of my peers.

This was not what the Headmaster expected and I was introduced to my Form 1 Teacher, Mrs Hoskins. She was well aware that the image of myself was at an all-time low and I needed help.

Form 1 was mostly boys and girls from the local area and Form 2 pupils were, mostly from London.

This certainly made us feel more secure because the two groups were kept apart during lesson time.

Here we were a group of thirty children who at the age of 12 had had little education, had poor social skills and no idea of our future.

I had the good fortune to meet people who said that if I tried hard at school, I could succeed. They included the director of my father’s company, Mr Hayley, and Sir John Herschel the last member of Sir William Herschel’s family, and of course my first form teacher, Mrs Hoskins.

We soon realised that we were in our new school with the aim of making a success of our lives and not just adopting an average lifestyle.

In fact this was the beginning of my serious education.

Mrs Hoskins recognised my enthusiasm and curiosity and took me under her wing. I was like a dry piece of blotting paper and could not soak up all Mrs Hoskins had to teach us. Without the help of all these people I would have continued to think I was average. Science was taught by the under- gardener at Eton College.

He only had one subject and that was potatoes. I was a very curious boy and would ask all sorts of questions; if it was not about potatoes I was brought to the front of the class and made to kneel on the parquet floor for the rest of the lesson.

To cut a long story short within two years I was transferred to the Slough Technical School to study engineering.

After three years I passed the exams and it was recommended to my parents by the Department of Education that I should stay on for a further year: they wished to find out what was happening to Eleven Plus failures.

Six boys and six girls from different parts of the country were brought together as a research group within Slough Technical School and given a remarkable education with specialist teachers. We studied the ‘O - level’ Grammar school syllabus but further subjects were added to give us a rounded education such as music, dance, Art, and architecture.

We were a very competitive group and worked hard.

Our O level results compared favourably with those of our Grammar school friends and so the Education project was extended to see what the potential of the Eleven Plus failures would be when continued into Further Education.

My parents had no knowledge of Further Education and took the advice of the research workers.

What happened when we left school.

When the members of this Special Education Class left school we were not left to our own devices. Each one of us was recommended to follow a particular career path. I was advised to embark on a career in science and joined the Department of Physical Chemistry at Fulmer Research Institute (FRI) in Stoke Poges (see Nostalgia article August 28, 2020).

As a result of my early educational experiences I developed an interest at FRI in the introduction of scientific methodology and the design process to young people.

This developed into the production of a series of radio programmes for BBC Schools entitled “Ideas Into Action”. This in turn led into work with Rolls Royce International to produce a film on the “design process” for all secondary schools in the country called let's make it work.

I was then invited to work for the Berkshire Education Authority and the Department of Industry to develop new teaching methods which would interest young people in the work of scientists.

Each member of the Special Education Class took different career paths, but we kept in touch for many years.

The picture shows part of the group when we moved into further education in 1950; I am in the middle of the second row and believe I am the only survivor.

When I was last in touch with them I located a Professor of Medicine, a Consultant Metallurgist, a Researcher in Science and Education, a Manager of a Pharmaceutical Company, an Architect, twin sisters who were writers and a Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

All twelve of us had started from humble backgrounds, all failed the eleven plus and all were told that we were average. For some reason and certainly it was unknown to us, we were chosen to take part in an educational experiment. The fact that many of our fellow pupils, who were not afforded the same opportunities, could have done equally as well is in my opinion an absolute disgrace.

That is why I was privileged to spend the second part of my career working to this goal and supporting very able pupils.

Did you have a similar educational experience when you were a child? If so let us know by contacting me Ron Lewin on 01844 274961 or email relewin@btinternet.com.

On behalf, of the Special Education Class I would like to thank all of those people who believed we could succeed in our lives to the benefit of others.


One of my last lectures was a Royal Institution Mathematics Master Class.

Two pupils from each secondary school in Berkshire came to the session which was called ‘We are all delightfully different’.

They were selected not necessarily because they would do well in the National examinations but because their school teachers believed that the pupils who have been selected would benefit from the experience.

During the day we did six projects on mathematics in groups. At the end of each project pupils were invited to come out and explain how they got on.

Some found the projects difficult and others found it easy; I would then conclude the project by saying we are all delightfully different.

One little boy from Somalia was brought by his father who explained that he had brought Abu to this country two years ago because the village community in Africa said he was quite exceptional and must come to this country.

Abu’s father was quite emotional that he had been chosen from a Slough school to attend the course.

When the course was over, I met Abu’s father. ‘Please Sir, how did my son do?’.

I replied that he was one of the most talented young mathematicians I had ever met.

He started to cry and came forward, hugged me and said, ‘Thank you Sir’.

My reaction was that my eyes filled up and in return I gave him a hug.

If I inspired one pupil that day it was worthwhile.