Malmesbury Commercial School

Unequal prospects for girls

By Elizabeth Joan Wade

This was a State selective commercial girls’ school that I attended from 1954-1957 where we trained as secretaries with no other career opportunities open to us. Pupils travelled long distances everyday, some 30 miles or more, to attend this school. Like all schools at that time there was strict discipline. We took Royal Society of Arts examinations at three levels and awarded certificates in separate subjects.

I was so miserable I never got beyond Stage 1 and one teacher wrote on a report: "Joan has the ability but will not use it" ! Another girl, who travelled all the way from Caterham, Surrey left during the first year, as she wanted to train as a nurse. Unknown to the girls at the time, boys who passed the same entrance examination attended separate selective commercial schools and trained as journalists, gaining a General Certificate of Education qualification, that instantly opened doors for them to enter any career path of their choice. Boys that attended the technical schools could also take the GCE. I read in a magazine that a well-known former TV presenter named K went to a commercial school, transferred to the 6th form of a grammar school, became a university lecturer, MP, journalist and owned his own media company. Just this week I heard on BBC Radio4 the story of Alf Adams FRS, a former technical school pupil who invented laser technology, including the barcode scanner, and is now Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey.

This page was added by Cheryl Bailey on 15/04/2014.

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