School Competitions

School Competitions – Memories of the 1962 – 1967 era.


During the final week of each term, most of the boys ‘sat’ a series of written tests, or ‘competitions’. From memory, these tests may not have included the younger boys in Set 3, or Sets 2/1.

Competitions included:


The General Knowledge competition: This comprised 20 different topic sections, with 5 questions per section. This competition, with its ever-changing subjects, probably required the greatest amount of holiday research!


The History Date competition: This comprised 40 questions on the year of accession of monarchs, 20 questions on ‘notable dates’, and 20 questions on the dates of battles. The battles section was headed: ‘Score 2 points for an exact year, and 1 point for a near miss’, thus making the achievable total for the competition 100 points.


The Tables competition: This comprised a wide range of questions on Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. There were also questions on ‘units’, such as ‘How many: square yards in an acre, feet in a fathom, yards in a chain, furlongs in a mile, hundredweights in a ton (not tonne!) etc.


There were possibly competitions in Latin grammar and French grammar too.


Some of the tests were completed by writing answers in the spaces provided on a ‘meths soaked’ duplicated question sheet! Others involved writing out answers in longhand on separate paper.


Boys ‘encountered’ each of the main competitions on three occasions:


Firstly at school, during the final week of term: Pupils sat the test - much like a mini exam. A few days later, and having been marked by the appropriate teacher, the results would be announced by Major B (GVB), usually in the dining room after meals, along with any other domestic announcements. The results for the pupils were announced in ascending order of score, with the winning boy and the highest score being announced last.

Secondly at home, during the school holidays: A copy of the same question sheet was sent home with each boy. The intention being that holiday study would take place, where necessary involving ‘research’, to gain a greater understanding of the questions and knowledge of the correct answers!

Finally at school again, during the first week of the new term: Pupils sat the same test once more – now ‘primed’ with the knowledge acquired during the holiday period. GVB would again announce the results in the dining room. A table of results, representing ‘end of last term’ and ‘beginning of new term’ scores would be prepared. This would be displayed in the glass-fronted notice board - in the ground floor corridor by the stairs, outside the Riley room.


On progressing to the senior end of the HH school ‘experience’, the goal to achieve 100% at the History Dates became aggressively, though healthily competitive!


There was also an intense rivalry to achieve maximum points with the General Knowledge – particularly as the written responses were in many cases subjective, unlike the ‘right or wrong’ history date answers!


Holiday research into the mysteries of the General Knowledge questions was in some cases ‘sub-contracted’ to willing family members! For at least one boy, visits to the local reference library by his septuagenarian grandfather were commonplace – this after all, being several decades pre-Google!