Let’s be clear, I’m a millennial, a member of that generation currently aged between 18-30 years old.
The aim of this piece is to attempt to find out if practices and punishments that occurred at my all-boys grammar school when I was there during the mid-90s and early 00s would be deemed inappropriate today and indeed, at the time they were committed.
Before I get stuck in, I fully acknowledge that your parents, uncles, aunts and especially grandparents probably experienced humiliation and punishment to an extreme we can only imagine.
If films are anything to go by, schools in the ‘olden days’ were theatres of pain. #olivertwist #kes
There’s no doubt that many others will have suffered much worse than me, at state schools, private schools, or academies, whereas some will see no similarity with what they experienced and those referenced below.
Here is a list of dubious treatments I experienced during at my school:
Forced to swim naked
If a pupil in class had forgotten their trunks then they were forced to swim naked. Is it good or bad we were only eight and not yet in our teens?
It’s hard to decide which would be more inappropriate and demeaning.
Teachers changing with you
Teachers monitoring students in the changing rooms isn’t particularly scandalous. On the other hand, teachers getting changed with their pupils is and something that regularly happened.
One teacher in particular would parade around the squash changing rooms totally naked trying to strike up conversations with other boys.
Teachers and kids sleeping in the same room on trips
A teacher would often stay in the same room as the pupils on a school trip. There isn’t much else to say about this. Nothing was ever reported of anything untoward happening.
Smashing heads together
Pupils in my music class would often have this fate delivered to them by the teacher. Any misbehaving students would be singled out and made to come to the front of the room.
The teacher would then stand them next to each other while she grabbed tufts of their hair then banged their heads together.
Forcing you to eat all your lunch
During lunchtimes pupils had to eat all their dinner before they could leave the lunch hall, regardless if they were full or not.
One former pupil said it was common for pupils to take empty crisp packets into lunch in order to use it to hide unwanted food.
The same pupil said he was once caught stuffing mushy peas into an empty Monster Munch packet. He was given 500 lines of “I MUST EAT ALL MY FOOD AT LUNCHTIME” to write for the next day.
My objective in writing this article was to have a comment from an education representative on each of the practices I experienced. However the organisations I contacted didn’t want to play ball.
The current acting head of my school was unwilling to comment stating:
I’m afraid my focus has to be very much on the present and I am not going to be able to assist you at this time.
None of the other members of the faculty returned my emails either. The Independent Schools Council, The National Union of Teachers and The Association of School and College Leaders were unwilling to comment too.
That the practices are wrong today is probably without doubt. The problem is that finding out whether or not they were unacceptable then is not straight-forward. An added complexity is that independent schools (which mine was) operate under their own guidelines and culture, as opposed to state schools, which are controlled by The Department of Education.
When I contacted the DoE about this piece, they said they were unable to comment because the cases were ‘anecdotal’ and were from an independent school, which is out of their jurisdiction.
My reflection on how my fellow pupils and I were treated at school has not resulted in any hard and fast conclusions. It appears that independent schools could potentially exploit the opportunity for dubious practices because they are not closely regulated by the State.
I would be surprised to find any of the treatments I’ve reported from my educational establishment from twenty years ago still occurring today, which in itself shows they have been rejected as unacceptable by contemporary society. And it’s likely that my parents’ and grand-parents’ generations suffered a far worse fate.
I didn’t come to any finite conclusion regarding the legality of what teachers did at my school. I would need the opinion of a specialist in the relevant laws for the period.
Society’s views change on what is acceptable and what isn’t, maybe for the good or bad. In the end I was probably one of the lucky ones.