Peter Snow: 'I got caned at school and I caned some boys too... it was simply part of the culture'
Veteran TV presenter Peter Snow attended Wellington College, Berkshire, in the 1950s.
Michael Ball: 'I can't count the number of times I was caned'
West End musical star Michael Ball was frequently punished in the late 1970s at Plymouth College.
Old School and Simon
Recollections of slippering and caning in the 1970s at John Willmott Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield.
Crunwere School, Llanteg: Minute and Log Book Entries
Canings recorded at this Welsh elementary school (ages 5 to 14) from 1906 to 1918.
Barbarism in English Education
1873 article in Popular Science Monthly discusses the punishment of "tunding" (whipping on the small of the back with ground-ash rods) at the elite Winchester College.
School's Out in London and Steve 'Ginger' Finch (illustrated)
From the "Another Nickel In The Machine" social history blog about London, a brief look at the May 1972 demonstration by the short-lived Schools Action Union against bad food, school uniforms and corporal punishment, among other things. Decades later it emerged that this ineffectual rabble had been infiltrated by the secret services, suggesting that the authorities took it much more seriously than anyone else did at the time. Allegedly, the middle-class far-left organisers tried to adopt Cockney accents and dressed badly so as to appear working-class. Some commenters below the line give a different view. See also these May 1972 news items.
Hong Kong - Typhoon Sailing
Near the bottom of this page is a caning anecdote from an unidentified English school.
An American Sings the Blues [PDF]
Old Clayesmorian Society: Letters 1997
McIsaac and The Flying Horse Hair Mattress [PDF]
An Artist & His School [PDF]
The Old Clayesmorian 2009 [PDF] (see pages 20, 21, 40)
The McIsaac Tapes [PDF]
Various CP reminiscences -- some (see the first in this list) in great detail -- from Clayesmore, a private school in Dorset, from the 1940s to the 1980s.
From the archives: RGS and Corporal Punishment (Alternative link)
Information about caning and slippering at the academically stunningly successful Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, an unusual selective state boys' school that has always behaved more like a private one.
Including a 1965 survey (Alternative link) of the boys' attitudes and CP statistics (the missing graphics are reproduced below). Until at least 1965, the weekly prefects' "court" was allowed to hand down a "sentence" of a formal slippering of up to six whacks. The offender had to bend over a chair at one end of the prefects' room, and the head boy or his nominee, wielding the gymshoe, would take a run-up for each stroke. It is interesting to discover that almost all the school's fourth-formers got their behinds officially thrashed by their older peers at some point. More remarkable still is that even upper-sixth-formers (who at age 18/19 would be older than some of the prefects) were still called upon to undergo this boyish penalty with some frequency.
See also reminiscences of 1950s mass canings (Alternative link) and Minutes of the Prefects' Meetings from the 1930s (Alternative link), when prefects still had the right to cane.
The Prefects' Meeting (Alternative link) page provides some CP reminiscences from the 1950s and the 1920s.
See also the following RGS Old Boys Newsletters for more CP recollections:
May 2002 [PDF]
December 2002 [PDF]
September 2003 [PDF]
November 2003 [PDF]
March 2004 [PDF]
May 2004 [PDF]
July 2004 [PDF]
November 2004 [PDF]
January 2005 [PDF]
May 2005 [PDF]
July 2005 [PDF]
May 2007 [PDF]
July 2007 [PDF]
May 2008 [PDF]
RGS Old Boys January 2010 [PDF]
See page 9 for a couple more anecdotes from the above. At a Prefects' Meeting in 1932 a boy called Saunders chose to be caned instead of copying out lines of text. "His wish was complied with, but after the first stroke, he wished the punishment be commuted to the original number of lines,
but it was decided that the caning should be proceeded with. Three strokes were administered in all."
School's in for summer
Article about the summer 2003 reality-TV series "That'll Teach 'Em", which put 30 youngsters for a month in a re-creation of a 1950s boarding school that claimed to be authentic in every respect except one -- for legal reasons there could be no corporal punishment. As it happens, the series was made at Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe (see items above). Much of the comment about the show was around the fact that today's students had great difficulty with the 1950s curriculum and exams, but a significant subplot was debate about the absence of the cane, whether this was a good or bad thing, whether it invalidated the experiment, and how and whether the producers might have got round it if they had really wanted to.
For more, see this July 2003 news report and this July 2003 comment piece.
Woolverstone Hall in the sixties
Woolverstone Hall was a rarity, a state boarding school. Though run by the Inner London Education Authority, it was set far out in rural Suffolk. The writer of this piece says he received corporal punishment (both cane and slipper) so often that "the outline of my backside must have been as familiar a sight to the staff as my face". He describes a number of these occasions. See also this Nov 1987 news item.
Woolverstone Hall Old Boys Association Dec 1996 (scroll down to "Confession")
More caning anecdotes from Woolverstone Hall (see previous item).
The Bishop Stopford's School
At this Anglican state secondary school in North London, offenders were offered a choice between a caning and manual labour, according to this Wikipedia article. "The miscreant was presented with a cushion bearing a pair of blue and a pair of black shorts. If he opted to be caned, he would select the blue shorts; if he chose the black shorts he would receive forgiveness. The shorts were carried on the cushion in procession in House Assemblies." ("Forgiveness" means an hour's worth of arduous tasks or physical exercise.) The school seems to have had many such "ancient traditions", but wasn't even founded until 1967! How bizarre is that?
Shut up and take your pills
Times columnist Libby Purves notes (Sep 2005) that we have stopped caning disruptive schoolboys and now diagnose them with ADHD and give them Ritalin instead. She suspects this is a "conspiracy against boyish boys", as part of our "heavily feminised, mimsy tick-box culture" in which "the very nature of boyhood attracts disapproval".
An 'Old Grange' from the Inside (Alternative link)
Punishments (Alternative link)
A Caning at King's School (Alternative link)
Detailed description of prefects' canings at King's School, Canterbury. There is a rough drawing of the procedure (right), and two photographs of caned buttocks, allegedly dating from the author's schooldays in 1942, which seems a bit unlikely. Also a reconstruction of a noticeboard announcement of a mass caning. Prefects (here called monitors) got training in how to do caning properly: "It's not just a matter of hitting him with a stick, you know!" -- a very important statement and a fact that has been insufficiently widely understood.
A campaign for the reintroduction of CP in schools, among other things, to tackle the "widespread chaos" that is "leading to a huge drop in standards". This page goes into more detail about the corporal punishment proposals, involving parental opt-in and the use, in secondary schools, of a US-style paddle rather than a cane.
So Why Did We Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child? Lincoln Allison fondly remembers being caned
The Emeritus Reader in Politics at the University of Warwick argues for caning as a contribution to human happiness. Its demise was largely just a matter of educational fashion, he says.
Old Emanuels: Leavers from the 1950s
Old Emanuels: Leavers from the 1960s
Old Emanuels: Leavers from the 1970s
These "school reminiscences" sites have sprung up all over the place. At this London boys' school, look for numerous references to slippering and caning. Boys could ask to have detentions "caned off" so they could do sport. Note also that prefects still had the power to cane in the 1960s.
Battersea Grammar School: Remember .... (Alternative link)
Memories of this London boys' school include a teacher "prowling the corridors looking for boys to beat"; the lines of people waiting outside his room to be caned; and an occasion on which an entire class was strapped. Despite all this, much fun seems to have been had.
And on this separate page (Alternative link), a former pupil of the late 1950s apologises belatedly to his fellow students for charging them half a crown for the loan of his lederhosen, which he claims served as undetectable protection when worn under the trousers. Can it be true?
The End of Corporal Punishment at Finchley [PDF]
Analysis of punishment books in the 1970s and 1980s at Finchley Catholic High School, a boys-only state secondary school in north London which continued with caning right up to its abolition in state schools in 1986. Unusually for this kind of school, some of the canings were given on the hand.
Roald Dahl's schooldays
A new biography of the late author describes discipline at Repton school in the 1930s. Dahl hated Repton and clearly had a bee in his bonnet about corporal punishment, which crops up all over the place in his writings. Most of the canings were administered by senior boys. The piece also revisits the well-worn ground of Dahl's mistake in attributing to Geoffrey Fisher (subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury) a severe headmaster's caning in 1933 that was actually the work of Fisher's successor, John Christie. New to me was that the recipient of this punishment was in fact 18 at the time and had himself been accused of abusing younger boys, which casts a slightly different light on the whole affair from the impression given in Dahl's autobiography.
The old school days at 'The Tec'
At Coventry Technical School in the 1950s, any transgression by a boy who was already "on report" meant a visit to the Head for "four strokes on the buttocks or sometimes six of the best". There were also informal slipperings in front of the class.
Why somehow wanting to write about students sitting in a circle ended up being more about getting a good thrashing
One Mark Sullivan recalls receiving, at age 15, six of the best with a strap on his bottom in the headmaster's study at a northern grammar school, for leaving the school without permission at lunchtime. There was also a physics teacher who had a collection of plimsolls behind his desk.
Spare the Rod and Michael Croft
Michael Croft was author of the 1954 anti-CP novel Spare the Rod, turned into a film starring Max Bygraves in 1961. In retrospect it can be seen to have anticipated the liberal and permissive attitudes that became more prevalent in the education system a decade or so later.
Scenes From the Battleground: Corporal Punishment
A teacher who is on balance opposed to the reintroduction of CP is nevertheless irritated by the "punishment puritans" -- the "hysterical appeasers of the badly behaved convinced that everyone who disagrees with them about corporal punishment is some form of barbarian or primitive". He goes on, "Words like 'child abuse' or 'torture' are thrown around as if every teacher before 1987 was a cross between Josef Mengele and Fred West. Of course, this argument is worthless." He notes that, as I myself have pointed out before now, most of the arguments used against CP are actually arguments against all forms of punishment.
Telling tales out of school
A 1950s "public caning" at Ashmole Secondary Modern School in London N20 is recalled.
Grammar schools: Old school wisdom
The headmaster of King Edward Grammar School in Chelmsford from 1949 to 1977 still maintains that there was no doubt of the efficacy of the cane if it was used with proper discrimination.
This brief biography of the star of the 1969 boarding school film if...., with its memorable prefects' caning scene, says that he had been slippered and caned regularly in real-life schools.
Me and my school photo: Johnny Vaughan
Broadcaster Johnny Vaughan says he got six of the best from the headmaster at Bramcote, a prep school near Nottingham, c.1980.
Me and my school photo: John Suchet
Newscaster John Suchet and his actor brother David were both caned at Grenham House prep school in Kent in the 1950s, "a monstrous place".
Ten of the best floggings
Quirky article in The Guardian about CP in literature.
Me and my school photo: Nicholas Parsons
Veteran radio presenter Nicholas Parsons (b. 1924) loved St Pauls School in London (he doesn't mention CP there, which is a bit odd, because they certainly had it in those days) but before that he attended a prep school in Hendon (North London) where there were canings for "the slightest misdemeanour".
Slip Sliding Away
A blogster recalls a severe caning headmaster at primary school in Hertfordshire the 1960s, and also getting "a mighty whack on the backside with a handy piece of 2" x 1" timber" in woodwork class at secondary school.
School that bred Black Country hero
Article about Sedbergh, a rigorous boys' boarding school in the wilds of Cumbria, where students "rebelliously carved their names in any exposed woodwork, and accepted the inevitable caning with good grace".
Reminiscences of canings at this private school in the 1960s, and by the writer's father in 1914-1918.
No more school, no more stick, no more arithmetic
Plenty of caning at Derwent School in Derby in the 1970s, according to this.
Holte Grammar School Memorabilia (Alternative link)
"Six strokes of the slipper" are remembered at this Birmingham school in the 1950s, while another contributor says that in the 1940s "most mornings boys would be lined up Mr Lewis' curving staircase to the 'turret' for a probable caning".
Of red ink and bearded boys
A columnist in York's The Press (Dec 2008) remembers when "Sid the Slipper" ruled the classroom.
Record of a baffled spirit
Teaching practice in Milford Haven in the 1970s: "There was only one cane in the school and it was passed from classroom to classroom as and when needed".
The Grammar School Years
An account of life as a pupil at the very traditional Boston (Lincs) Grammar School, starting in 1969. The author and his friend were the first two in their year to get "the Swish" (schoolboy slang for a caning). "We were asked, 'What was it like?', and 'Did it hurt?', but we shrugged it off and said 'Nahhh, not really', which was a complete lie because we had whip marks on our arses for a week!"
Victorian School: The Cane
There are now more and more of these "school museums" where today's students learn what it was like at school in Victorian times. This one has a short blurb about caning.
The Victorian Classroom at Scotland Street School
This school museum is in Scotland. On this visit, several students volunteered to pretend to be belted by the "teacher" but only one was chosen (right). Nothing particularly Victorian about this punishment, of course -- it was rife in Scottish schools until the early 1980s.
Interviewed in the Times Educational Supplement (April 2008), actor Adrian Edmondson claims that he received in total 66 strokes of the cane at Pocklington School in East Yorkshire between 1969 and 1975.
Six of the Best!
Purportedly the recollections of a caning headmaster. I am not sure whether this is real or made-up.
Does your daddy know you're here?
Article (May 2000) in The Guardian (London) in which John Vidal writes about his time at boarding school in the late 1960s, when prefects were still allowed to cane younger students. He doesn't name the school, but elsewhere Vidal reveals that he attended St Bees School in Cumbria.
Keil School Old Boys' Club [PDF]
Keil, now closed, was a small but prestigious private boys' school in Dumbarton, Scotland. It appears to have been one of those "healthy outdoor pursuits, compulsory short trousers for all ages and open-necked shirts" schools, like Gordonstoun, but by all accounts rather stricter. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the most common punishment by teachers was severe strapping of the hands, but there were also dormitory slipperings by the "Chief" (head prefect), known as "getting the peech ('ch' pronounced as in loch)", described here.
Bring back the cane
Sharply divided views on corporal punishment on this message board for present-day UK teachers, with a surprising number of them regretting that there is no prospect of its return. The thread continues for 29 pages.
Old boy slang (Alternative link)
A glossary of schoolboy slang from Bancroft's, a private school on the eastern edge of London. Canings in the 1950s were called "beats", consisting of up to six strokes "administered to the rear of a boy bending over and holding his knees for stability". They could be meted out by a monitor ("Mon beats"), a housemaster ("House beats") or the Headmaster ("Sid beats", named after Mr Sidney Adams, a former HM). "Dorm beats" were given in the dormitory (pictured right). At an earlier period, a good thrashing was called a "lamming".
Old Oakhamians - Summer 1999 (Alternative link) [PDF]
See pages 18 to 22 for "Reminiscences of Oakham School in the late 19th century", including various birching and caning references.
Starring you and me
In a piece from February 2004, The Guardian's film man, Peter Bradshaw, considers movies about school life, with particular reference to differences between the USA and the UK. Among British films he considers If... (1968) and Kes (1969) and The Guinea Pig (1948), all of which feature caning in English schools of one kind or another. All these, he notes, can be seen as essentially serious films about (among other things) class and caste. There really aren't any American equivalents.
This lad was disappointed by the mildness of his two-stroke caning in the headmaster's study at Cardiff High School in 1967: he'd hoped for some "nice red weals across his bum" to show off to his brother.
"Dickie" Slaney (Alternative link) [PDF]
See pages 2 and 4 of this issue of Chesterton Gossip, a Staffordshire newsletter. Mr Slaney was headmaster of the Junior Boys School in the 1940s and 1950s; it is alleged here that he proved that corporal punishment, in the form of "six of the best across the bare behind", did work, and had parental support.
The Beauty of Double Standards
James Bowman, who once taught at Westminster School in London, writes in The American Spectator (Jan 2007) that boys and girls are different, and we should stop pretending otherwise. He cites as an example of this pretence the notion, put about by STOPP in the 1980s, that the fact that girls' schools managed well without the cane "demonstrated" that boys' schools would benefit from its abolition, and points out that "demonstrated" here in fact means "facilely and falsely analogized".
Reminiscences of punishment at West Hartlepool Grammar School for Boys.
Solihull in Wartime 1939-1945 (Alternative link) [PDF]
At page 35, a caning on the stage in front of all the boys at Lode Heath School is described.
The Croydon Archives: Register of Corporal Punishment 1952-78 (Alternative link)
Former students of John Ruskin School near London come across their old school's punishment book in the local archives. Amusing extracts are quoted and a little statistical analysis is attempted. The text is wrong to state that CP was forbidden in all (state) schools around 1978; that didn't happen until nearly ten years later.
Chris Green recalls school life in the late fifties (Alternative link)
More on the John Ruskin School in Croydon (see previous item). Scroll down to near the bottom of the page. This correspondent refers to the birch, but I imagine he means the cane. The methods of headmaster Mr "Joe" Lowe are described. He seems to have been a strict disciplinarian. He got a potato shoved up the exhaust of his Morris Minor in revenge!
What Life Was Like in the 1940s
Reminiscences about whackings at Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire.
Memories by David Edwards 1947-1952 [PDF]
My memories, by John W. Cartwright 1945-1950 [PDF]
Corporal Punishment Book
Pages for King's Norton Boys' School in Birmingham. In the 1940s the headmaster used to make each offender go and buy the cane with which he was about to be punished. David Edwards got six of the best for smoking on a tram. John Cartwright didn't get it, but saw the weals of a boy who did. Also here is a genuine punishment book page (names not blanked out!) from 1970, with only three or four canings per month recorded. Either this school used CP rather less than most of its kind, or many canings never got entered.
Bognor Cane Company
Information on a message board about this outfit which supplied punishment canes to schools, and its eccentric boss, Eric Huntingdon. See also these April 1981 news items.
Stouts Hill School: Crime and Punishment
Ex-pupils of this boys' boarding school recall canings.
Punishments (Alternative link)
A delve into the archives at what is now a Middle School in Northamptonshire. In the 1940s the cane was a last resort and used infrequently, but on one occasion 20 boys were all caned in turn for not owning up when the Headmaster was struck by a piece of coke. In the 1950s and 1960s, the cane had largely given way to the slipper. All the recipients listed in the punishment book were boys, and the most severe penalty was "four strokes of the slipper on the buttocks". In the 1970s, however, boys got the cane and the slipper was for girls.
Edwardians Online: Revd. W. Frank B. Place
St Edwards School, Oxford, in about 1905 was "the most spartan school in England", according to this former student, and was "always whacking people".
Schooldays with the Strap (Alternative link)
Numerous former students of Scottish schools remember being on the receiving end of the belt.
That's quite enough poetic licence, Mr Motion
The Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, has written a book attacking his prep school, Maidwell, describing the headmaster as "a cane-waving sadist". In this Observer piece (Dec 2006), Tom Fort, who was there at the same time, agrees that there was "constant corporal punishment" but points out that that is just what such schools were like at the time, and that actually the headmaster was a very nice man. Fort was happy at the school, and thinks Motion, who admitted not liking anybody much, "was clearly a boy who should never have been sent away to school in the first place".
Public or Private
Discussion on a message board, with personal reminiscences quoted in evidence, about the relative merits of being caned or slippered in front of the class vs. privately punished in the headmaster's office.
Duncan Hall School
Recollections of CP (mostly slippering, it seems) at Duncan Hall School, a boys' private school in Norfolk, in the 1970s and 1980s. This is a Facebook page: you have to scroll a long way back to 2011 by repeatedly hitting "Older posts".
The Victorian Era
Diary entries by a school headmaster in 1850 who had hoped to dispense with CP but found this was not possible as long as "parents are so indifferent about good moral training at home". Some things never change.
Six of the best kinder than zero-tolerance (Alternative link)
Author Magnus Linklater was at school at Eton in the 1950s, when the punishment for being caught with alcohol was six strokes of the birch "wielded with some ferocity by the headmaster".
Memorable images: Whacko! (Alternative link)
The Sterling Times British nostalgia website celebrates Jimmy Edwards' 1950s TV comedy programme, from a time when corporal punishment was accepted as a normal aspect of school life.
The John Gillatt "It's My Life And I Did What I Want" HomePage
At Maidenhead Grammar School in the 1960s, when you got to about five detentions in a row you could go to the headmaster and ask to be caned instead.
Dartech and Wilmington Newsletter, June 1995
For alumni of a boys' grammar school in Kent. Scroll down to "The Old Dartechs' and Wilmington's Book of Records'. It records the name of the last pupil to be caned, a 15-year-old, and the date (10 October 1985). (One trusts he was asked whether he wanted this fact to be published only 10 years later.) There is also an analysis of the punishment book for the final two years of caning, drawing the conclusion that "the cane was beneficial". Old Boys could apply to purchase a school cane as a souvenir!
Autobio 2000: A Personal View of the Twentieth Century (Alternative link)
The writer of this piece attended a prep school in Kent in the 1930s. He reports seeing blue marks on the bottoms of boys who had been caned. There is also an interesting anecdote about a bully who was cured of his habit by being ceremonially slippered by each of his victims in turn -- a punishment offered to, and accepted by, his parents in lieu of expulsion.
Christ's Hospital: The War Years
For the uninitiated, Christ's Hospital is a school, not a hospital. Various sorts of whackings in the 1940s are recalled here.
Does School Help or Hinder the Road to Success of a Chief Executive
Alistair Owens, the retired former boss of a chain of DIY stores, attended a secondary modern boys' school in Kettering in the early 1960s, having "failed" the 11-plus. (He is, I think, mistaken in generalising from his own particular experience to the effect that secondaries-modern were run-down schools in dilapidated Victorian buildings, while grammar schools were lavishly provided with modern facilities: in the town I grew up in, the situation was almost the exact opposite.) Anyway, in Chapter 2 some canings are described, one of them carried out in front of the whole school. It sounds harsh but, as the author points out, "it's all too easy today to condemn past attitudes with the benefit of hindsight and with today's rather than yesterday's values as the measure". And he adds, "for all its faults, the school did turn out pupils with basic literacy and numeracy abilities which I believe would shame quite a few of today's comprehensives".
Cambridge colleges 1504-1509
Younger undergraduates at Cambridge university, who in the 16th century might be only 14 or 15, were liable to be birched by the Dean for cutting lectures, according to this. Actually that was still the case nearly 150 years later: see this May 1648 news item.
Peakirk Cum Glinton Primary School - School History
Floggings were so frequent at this Peterborough school that in 1882 it was a matter for special note that no corporal punishment was recorded for a whole week.
Eminent Victorian, Alas
Review in the New York Times of a biography of a British crackpot called Francis Galton (1822-1911), the "father of eugenics". Caned and birched frequently at school, he once timed his Greek teacher thrashing 11 pupils in eight minutes.
The Parish Of Middleton In Norfolk (Alternative link)
Evocative description of a village primary school in 1950. Any misbehaviour by boys resulted in a painful visit to the headmaster, but girls were exempt from the cane.
Mr Whiteley's Headmastership and the Chancery Suit (1789-1815) (Alternative link)
Stuff about Leeds Grammar School 200 years ago. Discipline had deteriorated in the Upper School, and a rule was made that any "corporal correction" by the headmaster or his deputy "shall be public and with such instruments as cannot do any bodily injury".
Stripes in Magenta, issue 2
Stripes in Magenta, issue 7
Tales from Assembly
Rose Tinted Glasses
Re: Strap Meister
Re: Strap Meister
Re: Strap Meister
Re: Re "Spike"
Register of discipline administered at St Augustine's Grammar School
Former students of a Roman Catholic boys' school in Manchester write in to describe their strappings in the 1960s and 1970s. Part of a (mostly) touchingly affectionate website devoted entirely to this school which no longer exists, having been absorbed into a different one in 1977, but which clearly made a great impression, in more ways than one. "Stripes in Magenta" is the ex-school's electronic newsletter, with yet more anecdotes. Each one contains a cod "letter from the headmaster" (actually he is long dead) and the one in issue 7 is a witty fantasy about proposed European harmonisation of the size of his strap. The website's Visitors Book repays careful study, too, both the current one and earlier years linked therefrom. Read also such fascinating documents as school policy, Duties of masters and mistresses on duty, and The Green Room, a place where the duty master administered the strap twice daily, with the miscreants lining up to bend over a chair. "Do you remember how you had to tuck your elbows into the chair so your posterior was presented properly?" Truly remarkable.
Glaisdale School, By Chris Richards
My Glaisdale Saga
Memories of a secondary comprehensive school in the English Midlands from 1973 to 1978. There is an account of a youth being formally caned, six strokes, in front of all the other boys, in the outside school yard. That must have been very unusual at an ordinary state school in the 1970s, and one might have suspected the story had been embroidered, but now comes corroboration in the second of the above links (only a fleeting mention, a long way into the section headed "Back for a new year").
Experiences at St Vedast (now St. James) and the S.E.S.
Message board for survivors of this famously cranky group of private schools in London, secretly controlled by a bonkers brainwashing cult innocuously called the School of Economic Science. More pertinently for our purposes here, they were also among the very few schools to carry on with caning until at least 1996.
What an extraordinary can of worms is opened up here. Very long (39 pages) and deeply depressing.
Much of what is described really can, for once, be described as "abuse", though corporal punishment is a relatively minor part of that -- there are numerous complaints here about unfair and excessive non-corporal punishments, too, as well as more general brutality and much cruelty of a more psychological kind.
However, for me the most remarkable claim is that headmaster Nicholas Debenham, as recently as the 1980s, was in the habit of caning boys on their bare bottoms, a fact never hinted at during his numerous sallies into the media to speak up for caning, such as this October 1996 news item. At least nobody can claim that this weird place was remotely typical of anything: it seems to have been a bizarre one-off in every way. A formal inquiry into the allegations has now reported.
See also these 1996 video clips.
The first rule of schooling - break it (Alternative link)
Star BBC journalist John Simpson claims to have been the most caned boy in his time at St Paul's School in London. He says it was painful and humiliating but not the end of the world.
Bishop Vesey's Grammar School (Alternative link)
Old boys recall slipperings at this secondary school near Birmingham, which is fine and normal, but also "vigorous face-slapping", which seems very reprehensible to me. Not only dangerous but far more humiliating than a whacking on the backside. I'm quite surprised: I myself went to exactly this kind of school (old-established, traditional, selective boys' grammar school) in the 1960s, and there, while there was plenty of proper CP, it would have been unthinkable for a master to hit a boy in the face.
Hitchin Boys' School Old Boys' Association Newsletter, February 2001 (Alternative link)
Passing mention of caning at this Hertfordshire school.
Plimsoll or Slipper?
The plimsoll, dap, gymshoe, pump or tennis shoe (UK current: "trainer"; US: "sneaker"), when used to inflict pain, was generally referred to in British schools as "the slipper". Punishment with it, usually "unofficial" and always applied to the seat of the offender's trousers, was often called "a slippering". This could give rise to confusion with the domestic, house or "carpet" slipper, a generally less painful instrument. This message board includes, among some extraneous nonsense and obvious fantasy, what purport to be accounts of the use of both types of implement.
Stand Grammar School: Contributions from Old Standians
Numerous mentions of CP (mainly slippering) scattered through these reminiscences of a boys' school near Manchester, which continue here and here and here and here.
The Wetherby Schools Photographic Archive & nostalgia experience
Former pupils of this Yorkshire school recall their canings and slipperings.
Extract from the autobiography of philosopher Colin McGinn. He describes being caned at his "loutish and philistine" secondary modern school in Blackpool in the 1960s. On one occasion "the PE teacher caned an entire year of boys -- some ninety behinds".
Your views on school discipline
A range of views on this BBC page. One contributor says that if the people who have banned CP were made to travel on buses with today's school children they would soon be bringing back the cane.
Things really have got better ...
Article in The Daily Telegraph (March 2004) by the first woman ever to teach at a "notorious" boys' secondary school in south London. That was in 1968 and the students were frequently caned and slippered, she says.
QVS: Crime and Punishment
Recollections of cane, slipper and belt at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane (Scotland), an army boarding school. Continues on this second page.
Excerpts from Down With Skool!
A couple of snippets from Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Williams' 1953 classic. Ostensibly kids' humorous fiction, but can be seen as highly subversive satire.
The Famous Sting Page
Fan page for the rock singer Sting, allegedly caned at school on 42 occasions in one year in the 1960s. In fact, it now turns out that this means 42 strokes, on only seven occasions, which is not at all remarkable for that era -- see the extract from his autobiography in this October 2003 news item.
Obituary of this literary agent says that at Charterhouse School around 1960 he instigated a successful rebellion against the practice of senior boys caning junior boys.
History of Fettes College
Scroll down to the section on 1970-2000 in this account of Scotland's top private boarding school. It mentions Anthony Chenevix-Trench's period as Headmaster (1971-79) but doesn't allude explicitly to his enthusiasm for corporal punishment, saying only "his regime was a highly personal one". The only mention of CP is to say that by the late 1980s it had been abolished.
For more on Fettes see feature article The cane and the tawse in Scottish schools and, on caning there in the Trench era, this September 2001 news item. And see also the following item ....
He could talk his way out of things
A mate of Tony Blair's who was at Fettes College with him around 1970 tells us a bit more about the different sorts of caning there. A 'school beating' involved being caned by all 12 prefects in turn, and "by tradition you were allowed a day in the sanatorium afterwards".
The abolition of caning
The former School Clerk at a Sheffield primary school remembers sending out a letter to all parents asking them to vote on abolishing caning. Only five parents out of 260 replied yes, she says, but the school abolished it anyway. So much for democracy!
The School Belt Past and Present
The True History of the Lochgelly Tawse
Lochgelly Tawse Scrapbook
Where Can I Buy a Lochgelly Tawse?
Description of the Lochgelly Tawse
A website created by the daughter of legendary Scottish strap manufacturer John J Dick. You can now once again buy a real Lochgelly Tawse -- but prices start at £100!
For more about the Scottish tawse, see this article.
Now it's like looking through a window
A former student of a girls' secondary school in Wolverhampton recalls canings in front of the whole school in the 1940s.
Mr Reg Woolford (1924-1929)
Reminiscences from The King's School, Gloucester.
Punishment and discipline at Old Radnor School
Extracts from 1880s punishment books in Wales.
Quotes from the punishment book of a junior school in the early 20th century.
Mick Jagger: My best teacher
Rolling Stone (now Sir) Mick Jagger, revisiting his old grammar school in 2000 for the first time in 40 years, remembered that headmaster's canings were a daily occurrence.
Thomas Wolsey School - Punishment Book
Photographs of pages from this Ipswich school's punishment book in 1930 and 1931.
School Daze (Alternative link) [HISTORY]
Recollections of school in Wales. The author says these remarks were originally posted on Friends Reunited but got deleted, so he made his own web page for them. Grove Park Grammar School for Boys in Wrexham took the prize for sheer volume of physical punishment, he says.
Why we are all losers in the crime game
Humorous columnist is overcome with nostalgia for the Britain of "red telephone boxes, free cough mixture for all and corporal punishment in schools".
Elmbridge School: Crime and Punishment
Elmbridge School: Things we did, good and bad
Elmbridge School: Roger Francis Remembers
Elmbridge School: some reminiscences by Garth Allmand
Some more of the same kind of thing, from one of Essex County Council's unusual out-of-county state boarding schools.
School history: Purley County Grammar School
Story of the school that later became Purley High School for Boys (now closed). In the 1950s and 1960s the headmaster was the aptly named Dr Birchall, who once caned 30 sixth-formers on the last day of term. Of Mr Derek Akers, who maintained a high media profile in defence of caning, the authors say "Much can be said about the last head of the school - but alas due to the laws of libel must remain unpublished until after his death". Whatever can they mean? For more on Purley in the 1970s and 1980s see this feature article.
No caning for Brimrod boys
Recollection of Brimrod School's (Rochdale) winning rugby league team in 1952. Headmaster Mr Wilmot told one boy, 14-year-old Harry Tonge, during the match that if he didn't tackle harder he would be caned afterwards. "We ended up winning the game and the whole tournament", says Harry now.
Committee on Rights of Child concludes thirty-first session
This UN body noted in October 2002 that, at least in theory, CP had still not been abolished in private schools in Northern Ireland. (But it has now -- see this June 2003 news item.)
School discipline - what's to be done?
BBC News Online "Talking Point" debate from June 2001. As always, some contributors insist that the return of CP is a key part of the answer, while others completely disagree.
Should corporal punishment return to the classroom?
Another BBC News "Talking Point" (January 2000). Includes a posed picture of a teen student being rulered on the hand.
Families First, Issue 1 [PDF]
Launch (Spring 2000) by the organisation formerly known as "Families for Discipline" of an unsuccessful campaign to restore CP to British schools.
Sects, power and miracles in the Bible belt of Essex
The oracle of Essex
American-style fundamentalist Christianity comes to the English home counties, with tales of lawsuits over paddlings in Bible schools. Articles from November and December 2000.
The Making of Them, extract page 8
The Making of Them, extract page 9
From the "Boarding School Survivors" website, a description of ceremonial prefects' canings at prep school.
A Tale of Two Countries: Child Rearing in Northern Ireland and Norway
An American pacifist discusses her witnessing of CP whilst teaching at a mixed school in Northern Ireland.
A great deal of caning, 1879
Extracts from the log book of a school in rural Wales.
Second Form 1968-69
Pages from the Sternians Association for old boys of Lord Wandsworth College, a boarding school in Hampshire. "The cane or the slipper ruled" in the 1950s, and in the late 1960s misbehaving boys were given a "cosy tail".
What do YOU remember about Primary School?
Author Maeve Friel remembers a school caning in 1950s Northern Ireland.
History of Miller Academy and Memories for the Millennium
Strapping anecdotes from a school in the far north of Scotland.
Advertisement for George Pocock's Academy
George Pocock ran a school in Bristol in the early 19th century and invented a machine for spanking unruly boys, according to this. Unfortunately the machine is not featured in the picture, as far as I can see.
Transgression and Correction
Essay calling for an end to "polarised debates" on subjects like corporal punishment -- amen to that -- and asking: why not let the child choose the form of punishment?
Ultimate Deterrents: Punishment and Control in English and American Schools
Essay from 1966 comparing discipline policies on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Elitist and the Popular Ideal: Prefects and Monitors in English and American Secondary Schools
Companion piece to the above. Academic view of the prefectorial system: in past times school prefects could impose punishments on other pupils, including (in some schools) corporal punishment, a situation apparently unknown in the US.
"The Art of Slashing": Victorian Representations of Corporal Punishment
Introduction to an academic essay notes that 19th-century educators succeeded in resisting all attempts to do away with caning and birching or even in many cases to tone it down. "Spectacular forms of bodily punishment" were crucial in forming the middle-class subject, it says. The title, by the way, is taken from a description of Mr Creakle in Charles Dickens's David Copperfield.
A chapter from Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians (1918). Dr Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School around 1830, celebrated in fictional form in "Tom Brown's Schooldays", is claimed to have single-handedly changed the whole ethos of English private education, not least in the matter of corporal punishment. In place of the indiscriminate, casual, knockabout flagellation which had characterised most schools thitherto, he introduced the idea of solemn, ritualistic floggings as a piece of grave ceremonial theatre with almost spiritual overtones.
No caning at Nantddu
Sarah gets a worse punishment
Part of a local history series for kids on "Victorian school days" in Wales. Shows extracts from school log books in 1878 and 1893.
Brookhead Revisited (Alternative link)
Quotes Cheshire Education Committee's 1951 rules on corporal punishment. Click on the picture of the punishment book to see some entries from it.
Abolishing corporal punishment: lessons learnt in British classrooms
Overview (in a South African document) of the abolition process in the UK, with particular reference to the role of the European Convention on Human Rights. Points out that the alternatives to CP are costly and time-consuming -- or, in the case of exclusion, ironically self-defeating.
Article from The Guardian (London) (December 1999) on schools in Northern Ireland, still largely divided on religious lines (Protestant or Catholic). At a Catholic school in Derry, the writer recalls, corporal punishment was not a last resort but the first and only resort.
Misericords and Choir Stall Carvings: Education Imagery and Satire in Medieval Choirs
Discusses, with illustrations, the numerous appearances in church choir stalls of carvings of boys having their bottoms birched.
School Punishment Book 1954-60
A primary school on the edge of London reproduces some extracts from its punishment book in the middle 1950s (all canings of boys on the hand).
Sparing the Rod: Schools, Discipline and Children's Rights
Advertisement for a book, published July 1999, which I have not seen: it claims to be the first book to trace the history of corporal punishment in schools, which certainly isn't true.
Archives of the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment, 1968-1989
You can now consult the records (108 boxes of them, it says) of the dreaded STOPP at the Institute of Education.
Transcript of a radio interview: retiring headmaster recounts amusing anecdote about a caned 16-year-old boy and his complaining mother.
Muggeridge: The Biography
Chapter One of Richard Ingrams's book on the late writer Malcolm Muggeridge, who attended a grammar school in Croydon at the time of the First World War. The headmaster was keen on caning boys, and on one occasion M.M. supposedly seized the cane and broke it.
Punishment at Spring Hill School (Alternative link)
Quotes an extract from the logbook of a Lancashire primary school, recording the caning of some girls in 1902.
Brian Jones (Alternative link)
According to this page from "Rock and Roll Heaven", the late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (the vaguely handsome one of the group, who died at age 27) was frequently caned at school in the 1950s.
The Jewish Way of Child Abuse
This distressingly screwed-up chap is talking about emotional abuse by his parents at his middle-class north London home in the 1950s, but in passing he also mentions canings at junior school (Hendon) and grammar school (Edgware).
Should corporal punishment be reintroduced into the school system? (Alternative link)
Essay by a schoolboy who says he would not like to be caned.