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Surplus subjects learnt at school.

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Andrew Tinsley20/07/2019 17:05:28
926 forum posts

I didn't do Latin at O level. The only disadvantage was that I was barred from Oxbridge entry, despite extremely high marks in the Scholarship papers. The requirement for Latin was dropped two or three years later.

In retrospect, I am extremely glad that I didn't do Latin! Pity that there were no metal work facilities at my school.


not done it yet20/07/2019 18:21:26
3553 forum posts
15 photos
Posted by Bazyle on 19/07/2019 22:14:02:
I don't count speaking my mother tongue as still using a school subject but do notice that my vocabulary is in advance of most people at work, even the ones who are English, which is partly due to my knowledge of Latin. BTW you needed 'Use of English' as an extra exam for Oxbridge.

Perhaps not for speaking, but reading and writing is definitely a skill. Reading exactly what it says and/or recognising the deliberate omissions is of importance when it comes to properly understanding texts - particularly advertising media.

Writing is important in that one should be able to impart no ambiguity, unless added to befuddle those that are not so proficient at reading texts accurately (enter the realms of advertising and lobbying)

I passed my ‘Proficiency in the Use of English’ - even though I dodged more than half the lessons (I opted to take metalwork lessons - although with no intention of achieving any certification). I think the Head (he delivered the use of english lessons) was likely pleased that I was not in those lessons, as I asked awkward questions).

I believed, at the time, it was going to be introduced as part of all degree entry qualifications, not just Oxbridge. This was in 1967. Unfortunately a majority of the humanities students (particularly those taking ’A’ level English) actually failed - mostly because they supplied a précis of a text text instead of writing a short summary, as requested. A simple case of not reading the question!

As for maths - I always say that I cannot do difficult maths so only do simple maths. Maths to GCSE pass level (grade C) can almost all be accomplished with simple maths.

Michael Gilligan20/07/2019 19:23:12
14244 forum posts
627 photos
Posted by not done it yet on 20/07/2019 18:21:26:
[ ... ] This was in 1967. Unfortunately a majority of the humanities students (particularly those taking ’A’ level English) actually failed - mostly because they supplied a précis of a text text instead of writing a short summary, as requested. A simple case of not reading the question!


Interesting [is it not?] that the evolution of language means they might now pass ...



Peter G. Shaw20/07/2019 20:20:23
989 forum posts
39 photos

I attended a small Yorkshire Grammar School in the late 1950’s. The most subjects I could have taken was eight – provided I stayed in the A stream. I didn’t, so the quantity was reduced to seven, the Maths syllabus was changed (no Calculus, I think) and fortunately, a different Maths teacher. Of the seven subjects, I only passed three – Maths, Physics & Geography, and failed English Language, English Literature, French & one other subject which I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Along the way I took, and dropped, Latin, History, Chemistry, Art & possibly RE. Metalwork/Woodwork was only taught for the first four years, but it did give me an initial introduction to engineering.

At the end of the five years, I left school, applied to join the General Post Office as an apprentice telephone engineer, and following a suggestion from the Youth Employment Office applied to the CEGB and the local electricity board, YEB. YEB didn’t want me, CEGB said yes provided I got four O levels to include English, whilst the GPO had it’s own entrance exam and wasn’t the least bit concerned about O level results. I duly had a career with the GPO/POT/BT ending up as an exchange dimensioning and routing planning manager.

So, what was of use for me. Maths & Physics gave me a pass into the second year of the City & Guilds Telecoms Technicians Course and ultimately I obtained the top level Full Technological Certificate in Electronics & Telephony. I have never missed the lack of an English O level pass: indeed some years ago I astounded a lady with a Phd in English Literature who commended me for my writing abilities. Woodwork/Metalwork gave me an insight into constructional methods in both subjects which eventually became of use in a personal capacity, ie DIY. The one and only time I could have used French my mind went completely blank!!! Latin was of some use mainly for pronunciation when I was singing, whilst the rest was of no use whatsover.

Peter G. Shaw

Sam Stones22/07/2019 02:06:59
663 forum posts
255 photos

Slightly off topic Bill, but …

One subject surplus to requirements was my earliest wake-up call. It was soon to follow my 11+ failure. The specific moment was when I became partly responsibility for the breakage of two 12" wooden rules.

Clenched together in her fist, Miss Pickford swung them down hard while the knuckles of my left hand got in the way. Both pieces of wood broke in two. Cleverly, she avoided my ‘write’ hand, although clearly, she was unaware of sweet spots, angular velocity, the distribution of mass, or even fibre strength.

The reason for my involvement … ?

I was a dreamer, and during an arithmetic exercise of long division (of Lsd*) having, in contemplation, chewed most of the wood off my pen, I had completed just one ‘sum’ for the whole morning. Where had the time (and tasty wood) gone?

Did such common vehemence of the day guide me later in life when I was awarded “Fellow of Institutes X & Y”?


(*) Pounds, shillings, and pence.

Edited By Sam Stones on 22/07/2019 02:09:27

Andy Carruthers22/07/2019 11:41:40
262 forum posts
23 photos

The subjects I enjoyed most were those taught by engaging personable teachers with a genuine concern for their pupils and where the subject matter coincided with my own admittedly narrow personal interests. Despite an interrupted secondary education - two grammar schools with a comprehensive in the middle - I was always destined to be a Jack of All trades

How I wish the Internet had been widely available and accessible 10 years before it was, I try to learn "something new" every day - I dread the prospect of retiring but welcome the prospect of being able to spend time on things I enjoy

Brian G22/07/2019 12:46:36
611 forum posts
25 photos

My big regret about school is that computing wasn't offered as an examined subject. I guess the logistics of delivering our punched tape programs to the local technical college then collecting the printouts a couple of days later prevented there being more than one lesson a week. I heard the school got a terminal the year after I left.

I eventually made up for it by getting a degree in Computing and IT nearly 40 years later.


Former Member22/07/2019 13:08:53

[This posting has been removed]

Howi22/07/2019 13:13:05
257 forum posts
15 photos

why do so many people dread the prospect of retirement? Just before I retired, I was asked numerous times what on earth I was going to do with my time. I really enjoyed my work the whole 49 years ( without a break).

I just find it so sad that people do not know what they are going to do with themselves once work stops.

I can now do what I want when I want (or not as the case may be). I can take on new activities as well as carry on with exsting ones. I can spend quality time with my new grandchildren (then hand them back at the end of the day!)

Only subject I found a waste of time was Religious Education, I went to a secondary modern so was considered factory fodder, metalwork was chosen over woodwork in my first year and never regretted it, looking forward to Wednesday afternoons for the rest of my school time. Like Peter above, I too joined the Post Office Telephones as an aprentice, after a number of years doing tech courses at tech college I switched over to the Open University. Best thing I ever did, 6 of the best years education I ever had. All in all a good all round education for me as I can turn my hand to many tasks rather than specialise in just one, you don't get as bored either.

Only latin I ever used was taken off a toilet door on my first residential training course for BT, Nil illigitum carborundum and one I had on as my work screen saver a good few years later - Uno Lotto Victorum et perceptus rectum terra.

My chief fire officer happened to be looking over my shoulder and saw the screen save message and wanted to know what it meant - One good win on the lottery and you won't see my arse for dust.

first time I had seen him smile!

Edited By Howi on 22/07/2019 13:16:31

derek hall 122/07/2019 13:53:08
49 forum posts

Wow, a lot of clever people on here, Grammer school?!

I failed the 11 plus, went to a bog standard secondary modern skool, Latin, Greek? I took 7 CSE's and failed the lot. I loved metalwork and woodwork generally due to the good teachers (thanks you Mr Salmon and Mr Waters).

Hated school, could not wait to leave, did an apprenticeship in a shipyard as a marine engineer this led on to other jobs and ironically a further total of 12 years at technical colleges doing further engineering study in first mechanical stuff and then electronic things.....I much enjoyed technical college, better learning environment for me I suppose - I guess I was a late developer...

Regards to all


Andy Carruthers22/07/2019 14:24:10
262 forum posts
23 photos

@Howi - I enjoy work tremendously so why would I look forward to giving up something I genuinely love?

I have plenty of things to fill my time so I'm not concerned about being bored

Bazyle22/07/2019 17:19:13
4790 forum posts
187 photos
Posted by Howi on 22/07/2019 13:13:05:

why do so many people dread the prospect of retirement?

Edited By Howi on 22/07/2019 13:16:31

For several years I have been telling all the groups and clubs I'm involved with I don't have time to do xyz 'cos I'm still working. When they find out I've retired I'll lose my excuse. face 21

I don't think we've had any Americans on this thread yet. From various films I understand their schools revolve around car maintenance shop & learning to drive in school time. Sounds like classes I would still be benefitting from, though I wouldn't have liked the mandatory singing all the time.

Samsaranda22/07/2019 17:53:44
794 forum posts
5 photos

I spent a lot of my formative years in the Far East and attended a British Forces School in what was then Malaya, returned to the UK at the age of 13 and attended the local grammar school where I was subjected to Latin, French and German along with Science subjects. I enjoyed the sciences but hated the languages. Had problems with fitting in with my peer group as I joined the school in the third year and was considered somewhat of an oddity having come from halfway round the world, this was the early sixties, consequently suffered a fair amount of bullying so schooldays not all that happy. Could not concentrate on school work so only achieved three O levels much to my parents displeasure. Made my mind up that I needed to get away from home life and so joined the Air Force in 1964 and served just over 22years as an Aircraft Technician, wouldn’t have swopped it for anything else thoroughly enjoyed it and left at the rank of Chief Technician having travelled widely and had many enjoyable experiences. Never had to even think about Latin ever since leaving school and only used French and Latin on visits to the continent. Was keen on completing a degree via the Open University but severe depression and PTSD in later life put paid to any thoughts of that.

Dave W

Bill Phinn22/07/2019 19:03:11
211 forum posts
41 photos
Posted by Howi on 22/07/2019 13:13:05:

One good win on the lottery and you won't see my arse for dust.

If anyone wants a more authentic translation, the following will serve:

simul et usus ero alea satis prospera, podicem meum prae pulvere non videbis.

Howi23/07/2019 09:15:51
257 forum posts
15 photos
Posted by Bill Phinn on 22/07/2019 19:03:11:
Posted by Howi on 22/07/2019 13:13:05:

One good win on the lottery and you won't see my arse for dust.

If anyone wants a more authentic translation, the following will serve:

simul et usus ero alea satis prospera, podicem meum prae pulvere non videbis.

Just shows wot a good education gets you.

try this one!

Once I cuttent even spel injuneer and now I are one.

Daniel23/07/2019 09:29:38
254 forum posts
39 photos
Posted by Howi on 23/07/2019 09:15:51:

Once I cuttent even spel injuneer and now I are one.

Wen I wer a children i cood dent eyethur

V8Eng23/07/2019 09:37:26
1324 forum posts
28 photos
Posted by Bill Phinn on 22/07/2019 19:03:11:
Posted by Howi on 22/07/2019 13:13:05:

simul et usus ero alea satis prospera, podicem meum prae pulvere non videbis.


Well: Google translate came up with this from that text:-

and the use of the dice at the same time I will be quite successful, will make naked in comparison with the dust, Thou shalt not see my.

quite amusing in its own right I think.

Edited By V8Eng on 23/07/2019 09:38:56

Nick Clarke 323/07/2019 09:40:45
420 forum posts
12 photos

I am not certain that there are any universally 'surplus' subjects in school.

The only learning that is not appropriate is that which is either unsuitable for a particular student or badly taught.

People learn in different ways and a practical approach my suit some, a written one others, making some subjects more useful than others but only as more or less effective methods of learning to learn. The content of any subject is often secondary.

The whole idea of a successful education is to prepare someone for living and hopefully learning throughout their lives - a task that has probably been successful for everyone here as chatting on the internet was almost certainly not taught when forum members were at school. We have all learnt to do it since!

Latin for example teaches one how to study and learn (common to all subjects) but more particularly how to recognise patterns and structures (conjugations, declensions, sentence structure etc) as well as providing important assistance in grammar generally. Even failing to master a subject can help to develop skills in working round the problem in future.

One could find similar reasons to justify any subject at any level, but I think the only reason for trying to gain so many qualifications today is that if one person or school does it, then the rest need to as well if not to seem out of step. I personally would consider studying fewer subjects but in more depth to be as useful, if not more so.

All have us have continued to learn and gather skills and information throughout our lives and careers - perhaps we have not used the content we learnt at school so much, but the techniques inherent in all learning are essential.

V8Eng23/07/2019 09:51:17
1324 forum posts
28 photos

Surplus subjects learnt at school.

mine were:-

Football, Cricket and Woodwork.

Being the short skinny kid I often got put down in Football, in Cricket the bat tended defeat me.

I found that wood never obeyed my tools.

I really enjoyed Metal work and we were even allowed to forge hot metal (what were they thinking!).

Liked: English, Science, Geography and Technical Drawing then learnt French and German after leaving.

Edited By V8Eng on 23/07/2019 09:57:19

Anthony Knights23/07/2019 10:02:03
287 forum posts
109 photos

I was taught Latin during my first year at secondary school, but when we moved because of my dad's job, the new school didn't teach it, The bit of Latin l did learn has stuck with me over the years. When we started taking foreign holidays in the 90's I was suprised to find that Spanish was closer to Latin than Italian.

For GCE I passed Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, English Language, French and Art. Failed English Literature as I had no interest in it. Went on to pass Maths and Physics at "A" level. The only time I've used my french was helping a lost french tourist on holiday in Tenerife.

The Maths and science subjects helped me understand how the physical world works and complements the interest I have in Science Fiction where I have a collection of several hundred book, acquired over the years. It has also given me a logical way of thinking which was invaluble when it came to fault finding in my career in electronics.

With Geography, I know where most places are in the world without having to google it. As for art, well I can draw and paint reasonably well, but when it comes to appreciating some of the modern stuff, I get the distinct sensation of being conned.

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