Straps, canes and dark sarcasm
Using ‘the strap’
In the late 50s and early 60s, corporal punishment at Fawcett School was commonplace. Many of the teachers used ‘the strap’. This was a long piece of leather, with the end cut into strips, presumably for maximum effect. An offending student was called to the front, told to put his hand out and given a huge swipe of this awful instrument. If the hand moved, the student was given another swipe. Imagine having designed such a piece of equipment.
A variety of punishments
Other teachers used canes, which were usually used by giving the offender a number of whips against the back of the trousers. One teacher used a plimsole. The student had to bend down, while the teacher would walk to the far end of the classroom and run as fast as he could, giving the student a terrible whack across the behind. Some students fell over. One much younger teacher broke rulers over students’ hands; another slapped boys across the head with an awful strength.
Continuous stream of sarcasm
A feature I never understood in a school, was the continuous stream of sarcasm from many of the teachers. Examples were quoting Shakespeare at us by repeating ‘you rocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things‘; or asking ‘so you are the cream? I hate to think what the milk is like’. This was a reference to our being in the top stream of the school. The statement didn’t worry too many students as it was such a weak suggestion, but plenty of barbed comments really did dent confidence.
Punishments did not educate
I seem to remember that only three of the teachers ever said ‘well done!’ to anyone. I also suspect that none of those three would ever have considered corporal punishment. They were probably the only three who had a sense of humour. I cannot imagine that any of the above punishments were anything to do with education. I do not think the sarcasm gave anyone an ounce of self esteem. Those of us who did quite well after leaving the school did so, I believe, in spite of Fawcett, not because of it. Good old days? I do not think so.