Half a century ago, I was in what was then known as 'top juniors' at primary school, which was the year in which we took the 'Intelligence Test' in December, followed by the 'Eleven Plus' around March. The results of these two exams would determine which secondary school we went to. In my area, there was a choice of three: grammar school, technical school, for those of a more, well, technical bent and secondary modern, which was for those who failed the Eleven Plus.
Just as now, when Year 6 pupils, in England anyway, are crammed with english, maths and science in preparation for the SATS in May, (Yes, I know it is maintained that the pupils are receiving a well balanced curriculum throughout the year - it just ain't so.) so were we and, yes, our parents too, bought us books of practice tests from Smiths to do at home.
However, after the Eleven Plus, we were free to do much more interesting things and I remember, in particular, a class project to make 3D scenes depicting different historical periods from the Stone Age through to the Victorian Age.
And at various times, through all these years, I have been reminded of a book that our teacher, Mr Illesley, began to read to us at that time which really fascinated me although, unfortunately, he never finished it, probably because the end of the school year arrived before the end of the book. I only remembered that the title was 'The Third Eye' and that it was about a Tibetan lama. As my memory was distorted by the passage of time, I had the impression that it was about the Dalai Lama, but in fact it isn't. The Third Eye was written by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, who was dispatched from his home at the age of seven to the local lamasery in order to learn Tibetan medicine, clairvoyance, levitation and astral projection and is the story of his life and progress up to the time he left for China to continue his studies.
Recently, I tracked it down and bought it and I've spent some pleasant hours reading it and remembering that final year in primary school, but, at the same time, I have been wondering how this book would be received by today's Year 6 pupils. Would they be fascinated by the glimpse of a world so different to ours, as I was, or horrified by the accounts of Lobsang's initial test before being admitted to the lamasery - being ordered to sit motionless from dawn to dusk on the ground outside the entrance with no food or drink during the day for three days in a row or of leaving his home, having been told by his father that, should he fail the test and not be admitted to the monastic life, he would not be allowed to return home either? It's taken me over fifty years to get round to finishing it but I'm pleased that I did.