Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham

About Year, Form, Class Terminology



General When looking through the various photos and documents you will find a bewildering array of numbers and letters used to name the various groups shown. This page is an attempt to explain them.

In general the people supplying the photos have also supplied the name that was in common use at the time. These may or may not agree with the official version, as given in the Greenhillian Magazines. Like nicknames, usage could vary from class to class and group to group.

Date / Form Number The school year started in September, and most people remember the year they started. All the official photos seem to be taken in the Spring. Because of this they carry a date that seems to be a year later than you would expect from the form number.

School year / Form Number Pupils would expect to be at Greenhill either 5 years to 'O' level or 7 years if attempting 'A' level. You might think that these would be called Year 1 to 7.

In the very early days of schooling though, the little private schools didn't take much notice of years as such. As the pupils progressed they changed the place where they sat, and were grouped by their "Forms" (ie benches etc.). To confuse things even more, they apparently used to used quite long benches and often referred lower, middle or upper sections of each Form.

When municipal schools like Greenhill were introduced, they tended to copy this kind of system from the longer standing public schools. The first Greenhill system we know of is from the late 1940s given by David Barrott. As an added complication the system used Roman numerals rather than the more usual Arabic.

Year No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1949 Label Lower III Middle III Upper III IV V Lower VI Upper VI
'50s Official 1 2 3 4 5 6b 6a

From the Greenhillian it would appear that the simpler naming system was "official" in the very early 50s. In my day (start 1954) the use of Roman numerals and lower / upper was still very common, though we were getting a little bit hazy as to exactly how they were used The simple system doesn't appear to have been fully accepted until the starters very late in the 50's. Even then we never had a year 7, to my knowledge.

Division of Each Year This is easiest starting at the later years.

The sixth form was divided into Science and Literature groups. It was usual for there to be many more pupils in the Lit group than the Sc group. For this reason it was quite common to treat 6.Sc as one group but there would be a 6bLit and a 6aLit (ie lower and upper). Similarly the fifth and fourth years were divided into broad subject groups Lit, Sc and General or L, S and G.

The first three years are the most convoluted. In the 1940's the school was virtually split into separate units for boys and girls. Each had two streams, a and b based on academic performance. Mixed classes were only tolerated in the higher forms and based on subjects taken. In the 50's the school was mixed and the first three years each split into three groups. This is where there seems to have been a process of almost continuous change in the naming and selection of the groups

At various times the Greenhillians show evidence of grouping systems (in no particular order) :- A B C, A B G, X Y Z and M(ixed) G(irls) B(oys)

You can work out for yourselves a lot more possible ambiguities in the system now. "B" for instance could be an academic stream B, B(oys) or "lower", if applied to the sixth form. "L" could be Lit, Lower, or if typed in lower case (l) looks just like a one. And so on.

I hope that's simplified things!

Forms or Classes? I have called the academic groups "Classes" because that's what most people called them. Peversely they nearly always refer to the teacher in the middle as the "Form Master". These were groups that assembled in a certain room for registration, announcements, to store their books,etc. They would probably only be taught in these rooms and groups for the first year. After that the Form would fragment to a larger and larger extent to go to actual classes/lessons. In this case the subjects themselves were grouped, and members of the same form could attend different classes for, say, Maths or French.

Kevin Dronsfield

Last amended Feb 2018