School era of cane and strap

Anthony Buckless
Anthony Buckless
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During my school years corporal punishment still existed, although it was on the wane.

Frankly I preferred a clout rather than many of the psychological punishments dreamed up then and today, which just increased mental distress.

Although some physical punishments seemed extreme, at least with a clobbering the job was done! Although it seemed possible that some teachers enjoyed giving it out.

At Moorside Primary School, Ovenden, as I recall, only Mr Ashworth, the head teacher, could use the strap. The other teachers used rulers or a pump (plimsole), either on the hand, on the bum or at the back of the leg.

And there was many a casual clout, although I must admit that, apart from one teacher, I didn’t suffer from physical punishment much at primary school.

Not many years after start-ing school at age five I had a woman teacher. Now I was no angel but I seemed to become the goat they used to put outside the village in case the lion came to call.

She would quite often rap my knuckles with a ruler, often breaking it in the process. So she added two rulers; breaking both those she added another and another.

She didn’t seem to realise that with more rulers it hurt less, the rulers absorbing the shock between them. Her face would go redder and redder as she strove to hit me harder and there was not many days when she didn’t strive to.

Halfway through primary school I noticed that some children had a good scam going. They only had to cry or look forlorn and they got away with things or the other party got blamed. I tried this on a woman teacher but she blamed me even more when actually, in this case, I had not started the fracas.

At Ovenden Secondary School, where I went at age 11, only the head, Mr Shipley, could dish out the cane. If you were a boy who misbehaved, a female teacher would sent you to a male teacher or send you to stand outside the classroom door. If the head should come by you were clobbered.

Male teachers had straps, to which you were sometimes introduced during the first lesson, when it would suddenly be banged down on the desk, to shock us.

But you were very rarely hit. Instead school work and/or lines would be given. You might be required to miss a break or stay behind after school.

Some teachers would throw chalk or even the blackboard rubber if they got mad. One chap taking history was shell shocked or something as he used to shake and would bite on the chalk.

He would swing around and throw the chalk with the speed of a bullet in your direction. Ironically we were told to hand in our elastic bands in case our victims lost an eye from its paper missile. Double standards?

I remember once the class was driving a younger teacher insane. She was sending us outside the door in clumps. My clump of pupils came in as another went out, for the third or fourth time. The head heard the noise and came down the corridor at just that moment. That set of my classmates got the cane on the hand in front of the class, and it was brutal, to say the least.

The head had them put their hands out at full arm stretch. He positioned the hands with the cane, presumably to heighten the fear. He then swung the cane back over his head, then forward with great force as it struck the hand.

A friend moved his hands at the last minute and the head came down with such force he almost fell over as he missed the hands. He doubled the punishment and said he would do so again if my friend did it again. I got away with that one but, unbeknown to me, the gods were determined that I should pay.

The only time I got the strap was when I, with a big bunch of mates, were smoking beside the swimming bath. I must have been spotted because later, in class, I was summoned to the male teachers’ cloak-room, where, lying in wait, was the geography master with his second, the science teacher.

I was struck on the hands repeatedly with a swinging strap. I looked at the teacher in the eye and wondered about wrapping it around his neck, but no, it was a fair cop; I’d broken the rules seriously.

But I was the only one who got the treatment. What also stuck in my crow was the hypocrisy of the teacher, who would smoke in the covered play area when on duty!

I crossed swords with many teachers but many of them had brains and bundles of common sense and they were good at their subjects, very good, most of them.