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School Discipline

Corporal Punishment in the 1980s

Who remembers school in the 80s? Our school still had corporal punishment when I started in 1983. The headmaster would give children the slipper in his office.


Some schools retained corporal punishment until it was finally banned in UK state schools in 1987. It was used less frequently compared to the 1950s/60s when I was at school. Our daughters went to senior school, a large mixed comprehensive, from 1980. We had heard that they still used corporal punishment there but didn’t really believe it. There was a PTA meeting for parents of new pupils before they started in the autumn term. After an initial welcome by the headmaster we were invited to look around the school and to chat with some of the teachers. My wife and I split up and looked at different areas.

Later that evening, at home, we were talking about the meeting. My wife then said she’d asked the deputy head, a lady teacher, if it was true that the school still used corporal punishment. My wife was a bit alarmed to be told it was still used there but not very often. She told that boys could be caned across their bottoms but only for serious things and then only after previous warnings. She asked if girls could be caned there too. The deputy head said they could but it was extremely unusual and had not been done to any girls for some time.

I was quite surprised it was still used on the boys let alone the girls. I’d been caned at school myself a few times. My wife’s school used no corporal punishment but she’d had the slipper at  home from her parents. I remember our daughters were quite shocked when a boy in their class was given two strokes of the cane. Seems he and another boy had been caught fighting in the playground and had been sent to the headmaster.

Our daughters were never punished in school and never knew of any other girls being caned or slippered there.


I left school in 1962 and experienced the cane up until 1960. The reason I escaped during 60/62 was that my school and I believe all others did not subject 6th formers to CP..although there may have been odd instances…e.g Helston Grammar School.

I am aware that SCP continued to be  pretty widespread in the UK until the mid 1970’s but, due to the activities of pressure groups such as STOPP. and the influx of much younger “modern thinking” teachers which started in the mid 60’s,  was mostly phased out by the late 1970’s. I suspect instances of CP in the UK  post 1980 will be very rare. As early as  late 1960 the  caning of girls was prohibited in many schools although this ban does not seem to have included the slipper.

However I strongly suspect any Australian members may have stories to tell. I am aware that  2 teenage daughters of an acquaintance who attended a mixed boarding school Down Under (possible somewhere in reach of Brisbane) were caned on their bottoms in the 1980’s .  I heard they received it  in 1987 when they were aged 16 and 17. In was the practice of the school to write to parents informing them that CP had been administered.  On that occassion they received 4 strokes for being caught in the boy’s dorm. The punishment was “witnessed by a female member of staff” so there was a strong negative inferrence that it was given by a male. I never of course saw the letter and gleaned the info from the father when a group of us met up for lunch when he was back in the UK for a promotion boarde . Back then HMG were quite generous with  school fees allowances for staff posted overseas.

Because of the circumstances it was difficult to gain too many details at the time  .The info came out when I asked how the girls were getting on. I had not seen them for many years. To keep the conversation “going” I asked how he could have placed them in a school with such a draconian attitute to the discipline of grown up girls. His surprising answer was that the girls had been heavily involved in chosing their school and were “over the moon” with their choice and very very happy there ..despite, presumably, the cane being used.I understand that the school had a lot of outdoor activities.


I left school, sixth form in 1982 at a uk private boys school and cp was certainly in decline by then. The last time i remember in my year was in 1980 when some boys ( aged 15-16 year 11 as it is called now) were caught having an all out fight. They were sent to their house masters of which there were 4. Three sets of boys were caned but a couple werent as their housemaster didnt believe in CP. it was the beginning of the end as younger teachers replaced the older ones in senior positions in the school.
The last time i received cp was also in that year also, i was 15 but it was a slippering(plimsoll) from a pe teacher. Fully deserved i might add!


I left school in 1982. The cane was certainly in use, although rarely, throughout my time there. I remember a guy in the fifth form telling some friends, quite proudly, that he had been caned on the hand for petty vandalism. The year head had said “I’m afraid I have no choice but to cane you”; and after finishing the treatment he had said “And if I have to do this again, it will be six of the best across the backside”. So even bum-caning wasn’t quite off the agenda. But it was rare enough that one of the “nice boys” hearing the story said “I thought caning was banned”. The boys hand was slightly red. He said it wasn’t sore, that he hadn’t cried, but that he had yelled “arrr” when he was hit.


We had corporal punishment at school until 1986 although it was being used less than it used to be. I got the ruler in 1982 aged eight and the slipper in 1985 aged eleven.


There is no doubt that the school corporal punishment was still being used in some UK state schools right up to the 1987 ban. STOPP and many parents were campaigning for it to end in the 1980s and even in the late 1970s. Even before the ban many schools had stopped using it and most used still used it restricted its use only for serious misbehaviour. There were, of course, a minority of schools that still used it regularly. I believe that the situation at that time was much the same in UK private schools too but the ban didn’t apply to them. I suppose most parents who sent their sons and perhaps daughters to those schools approved of its use.

Family spanking was on the decline in the 1980s too. Many mothers still gave younger children the occasional slaps but some parents still used ‘proper’ spanking at home.


My own slippering in 1953, also aged 11, was for forgetting my sports kit. Darned if I can remember much about it now except for the embarrassment of having to shamefacedly walk up to the front of the class and bend over a front row desk facing the class to be whacked. Oh, and the annoyance of the girl with whom I shared a two person tip-up bench seat desk. She felt I’d let the side down. We goody-goody, hard-working and academically successful occupants of the back row weren’t supposed to get the slipper!

I also recall the reaction of the boy whose PT shoe the teacher borrowed to do the dire deed. He was one of my main rivals for top of the class and each time I pipped him in a test thereafter he consoled himself by reminding me that I’d been whacked with his shoe.

As to the actual whacks, I can’t even recall how many there were let alone whether they hurt or not, whereas the smacked leg earlier in my school career survives in my memory as though it was yesterday. A curious thing, memory!


I was caught chewing gum in class and the teacher sent me with a note to the headmaster. I was expecting a serious punishment, a severe shouting at or even the ruler a few times on each hand as I had once when I was eight. I didn’t expect to get the slipper as very few girls ever got it. No girl in my class ever got the slipper and even most boys hadn’t had it. I was the last girl anyone would think would get that sort of punishment as I was a quite shy well behaved girl. When I gave the note to the headmaster, he read it and gave me a telling off. Then he calmly opened a draw in his desk and took out a large black PE plimsoll. I got a terrible feeling of fear in my stomach as I realised what was happening. He said ‘Debbie, I am going to give you four.’ There was a chair in the corner of the office which he put in the middle of the room.

Then he told me to stand behind the chair and put my feet together. I had to fold back my jumper, I did so and he said ‘ bend over and put your hands flat on the seat of the chair. I bent over and he said ‘ stay down until I tell you to get up.’ Suddenly I felt a terrible stinging slap across the right side. I screamed and felt another across the left and another on the right and another on the left. I was than told to stand up. The stinging slowly gave way to a feeling of numbness. My bottom was very warm and I was crying bitterly. I was than sent back to the class.


Four hard whacks with the slipper does indeed seem harsh for chewing gum in class but remember that Lynne Simmonds, given 3 strokes of the cane with her skirt raised by formidable Headmistress Miss Janet Dines leading to the notorious 1976 court case, was ostensibly caned for the not dissimilar crime of eating crisps in class.  However Lynne was an extremely naughty girl, and in her case a long list of prior offences was ‘taken into consideration’ whereas you were well behaved so a serious (and rare at the school) slippering was I think completely excessive.  I note that your Headmaster was of the ‘alternate cheek’ persuasion when slippering.  This was the technique generally used by teachers at my junior school and possibly it was thought to give a more painful and effective punishment than random whacks.

It is interesting that your class teacher took the opportunity to use you as a warning to the rest of the class about future behavior.  After my leg slapping my class teacher did exactly the same.  When I, and a boy and a girl from the class  who’d been behind me in the punishment queue returned she made us stand at the front of the class, hands on heads, while she told the class that we’d been very naughty and in future anyone else being naughty could expect similar punishment.  It was a fairly effective warning I think.  We were all in tears and in my case I’d run back to my own class as soon as Miss B had released me without stopping to pull down the tucked-up leg of my short trousers and Miss B’s handprints were still much in evidence on my thigh.


In actual fact the case was withdrawn by the girl’s father as he said that he thought it was all too much for her. I’ve read all the newspaper reports about it and I do wonder if he thought it better to do that rather than see the case go in Mss Dines’ favour.

I’m not surprised that the case made all the national papers. I’d have thought that very few schoolgirls were still being caned across their bottoms in any UK school in the late 1970s.


i ask the question i often do in cases like this… what do you think would have happened if you had refused, and if necessary violently resisted the scp… would the head have just held you down and beaten you… which was not something heads generally seemed inclined to do with girls… would he have called your parents, would they have supported him, or you… it was an unusual and severe penalty for a minor offense… would he have relented and imposed a non corporal punishment… certainly we can never know for sure, but i’d be interested to know what you think the response would have been


It was almost unknown for a youngster to refuse to take deserved SCP. It would have been seen as cowardice. When I was a lad the majority of UK boys’ schools used CP and parents generally agreed with it and many parents gave spankings themselves.  I never knew of girls being caned across their bottoms in schools, Compared to boys very few girls were caned and  if they were it was across their hands.

but this slippering took place in 1985 at a school that used very little scp and the original posted doesn’t to this day believe it was deserved, so i’m not sure this was a situation where it was either unthinkable to refuse or where the school culture would have regarded it as cowardly to do so… i’m also not sure refusal was either a uncommon or as unacceptable to ones school peers as so now in retrospect  some believe… there seem to be plenty of anecdotal evidence of refusal throughout scp’s reign


I greatly respect your views and I can indeed recall at least one claim of SCP resisted here, though I can’t think how to locate it at the moment.


It didn’t come in to question to refuse to bend over. We were very scared of the headmaster and I certainly felt very intimidated. I was a quiet, well behaved girl who suddenly found myself in the headmaster’s office being told that I’m going to get the slipper, something that was considered the worst possible punishment even for a boy. The fact that I was a girl getting it made it even more embarrassing and intimidating.
Truth to be told, although I think the punishment was excessive, it certainly worked as I never misbehaved again. It also made me rather popular once everyone found out!


Our school did use corporal punishment quite a bit but it was usually a ruler on the hand. The slipper was used very rarely and was considered the ultimate punishment greatly feared by everyone. Only two boys in my class had the slipper and no girls before me.


Our school never caned of slippered girls, late 70s, but I did hear about a girl down the road who went to the local mixed secondary getting the slipper.


I think that possibly the 1970s was the peak period for corporal punishment of girls in England and Wales schools. This was due to the rise in co-educational schooling, and “women’s lib” meaning girls increasingly began to match boys with bad behaviour, which led some schools to treat girls just like boys when it came to CP. However some schools wouldn’t cane girls and only used the slipper or equivalent, and I believe caning on the hand became the norm in many co-ed schools which to me is a retrograde and unsafe step, but head teachers (especially males) would be aware of the potential for controversy involved in ANY caning on the bottom. This tended to tail off in the 1980s as local authorities, and maybe individual schools’ heads and governors, became more and more unhappy about the use of CP in general.

I would also be of the opinion that the excessive and brutal caning of boys waned markedly during this entire period, partly due again to co-ed schooling, more women in teaching, parents actually getting enough bottle to start confronting abusers and a better quality of teacher emerging through teacher training colleges – God knows where some of the “whacko” types originated from, I suspect that pre-1970s qualifications were somewhat looser.

I have talked to several woman of my generation or slightly younger, i.e. with a 1970s education, who were at times caned, slippered, strapped or whacked with a ruler in school and did not consider it all that great a deal, it tended to be moderate and very occasional. So the “Lotta Nonsense” type people who claim such things never happened are plain wrong, but I am very suspicious of anything which looks and sounds like a scene from a kinky spanking film.


Striking, refusing to attend school to be caned or otherwise subjected to SCP, was always an option where the punishment was notified in advance.  But although this didn’t always make the press those following this course were quite often given the intended punishment anyway when they returned to school.  In addition they lost valuable days of schooling during their absence, and their parents or legal guardians were usually technically in breach of the law unless they had made acceptable alternative educational arrangements. Not a wise choice I don’t think, especially if like me you were of a nervous disposition and apprehensive about SCP.  The thought that I was probably going to get it anyway would have weighed heavily, better to get it over with!

And on the subject of getting it over with, I’d think that in the UK most corporal punishment wasn’t flagged in advance.  You committed an offence, you found yourself at the front of the class or sent straight to a senior teacher, the cane, slipper or whatever was produced and you got whacked.  Now of course you could have fled the scene.  But if you did it would be the duty of teachers to intercept and detain you, since during school hours the school was responsible for your safety and arrangements to get you to home or wherever safely would not have been in place.  In practice you’d quite possibly have escaped but, as already noted, you’d probably have got whacked anyway on your almost inevitable return to school.

Attacking the teacher who was about to punish you and actively resisting with force.  Well yes, a possibility.  Though perhaps not for debdebdew80, who gave rise to this discussion.  She was a frightened 11 year old Junior School girl told she was going to be slippered by a Headmaster of whom she was in awe.  But take an older and bigger boy or girl.  Well I have to tell you that for quite a bit of the time post-WW2 SCP was in existence in the UK the courts weren’t overly sympathetic to children who committed violence against responsible adults.

Boy or girl, if you’d injured the teacher you could possibly have finished up detained in an institution where the CP could be a great deal more severe than was likely in school.  One of my youthful acquaintances was ‘sent away’ to just such a place, though not for attacking a teacher.  Actually it was for breaking windows in every house along  the road with a catapult using heavy lead pellets which I’d provided the technical expertise to cast from lead toy soldiers, a budding metallurgist even then!  Happily I wasn’t involved in the despatch of the missiles so didn’t experience a spell in an institution where unsympathetic staff deployed heavy canes on scantily protected  bottoms in response to misbehaviour..  He did though, and I think any schoolchild would have been extremely foolish to take that risk.

If you continue your search for items in support of your case for resistance to SCP into the 1970s you’ll probably encounter the ‘Heaton Riots’, so-called, when schoolgirls in North-East England staged rather vigorous protests, involving the assistance of the police to suppress them, when a Headmaster announced that in future girls would be strapped for misbehaviour as well as boys.   (Most of the press had it as ‘caned’ rather than ‘strapped’ as reporters often assumed that all SCP involved the cane and used it as an almost generic term.)

Should you choose to quote this case, remember that the strap for girls was reintroduced in the school anyway.  Further, not very long afterwards the girls’ behaviour on that occasion was ‘taken into consideration’ when the Local Education Authority decided to introduce a new ‘super strap’.  Though still a pale shadow of the formidable tawses deployed in many Scottish schools this was larger, heavier and intended to be more effective than the existing authorised version.

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