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School Discipline


I was channel hopping a couple of days ago and came across the film KES – great movie. I tuned in at the point when the school assembly was in progress and the bad tempered headmaster lost his patience with all the kids coughing after signing a hymn. One lad coughed loudly after the headmaster had finished his rant and the headmaster ordered a teacher standing at the side of the hall to find the culprit.

I was amused that the teacher waded in a picked out a boy at random (a 15/16 year old) and he was dragged out of the hall and ordered to the headmaster’s study. A couple of minutes later, the lad who owned Kes (can’t remember his name at the moment) was ordered to join him for yawning.

The next scene cuts to outside the headmaster’s study where 3 or 4 lads are awaiting their fate – it was clear to them that they were going to be caned – sure enough the famous caning scene followed a few minutes later.

What I was curious about was the discussion between the lads outside while they were waiting for the headmaster to come along. The first boy ordered out of assembly was complaining about his bad luck and said that he would complain to his dad. It was funny that Kes’s owner taunted him by saying that the other lad’s dad had come into the school to complain to the headmaster about something else the previous week and it did him no good as he ended up “getting the stick n’all”.

When the kids were called in to the headmaser’s room he launched into a lecture about how it was always the same boys who appeared time and again for punishment and that he (the headmaster) had taught for over 30 years and had taught most of the parents of the present day kids.

I thought that it was a curious twist to put into the script that teachers would resort to administering punishment to parents but the simple way this was dropped into the storyline made me think that it seemed to be an acceptable notion in the public viewpoint in the 1960’s.

I have read some polls and accounts that claim that teachers have sometimes called on parents to attend ann interview with them about their kids and that the teachers have resorted to punishing the parents for their failings in overseeing their children’s behaviour at school.

I would think that the possibility of parents being punished at school is highly unlikely but it may have been different a few decades ago.

Does anyone have evidence to support the claims that parents have been punished by their offspring’s teacher?


A teacher might easily teach for more than 20 years at the same school.

A 14 year old might be punished by a young teacher and 20 years later have a 14 year old son punished by the same teacher. It would not be a common occurance but is certainly possible.


don’t believe that there was any suggestion that the Headmaster had punished any of the parents while they were parents, but simply that he had taught, and possibly punished some of them while they were children at school.

The Headmistress of the infant school I attended had been Headmistress there for many many years. She was a lovely lady, and unlike some of her staff I don’t think she used corporal punishment very much if at all. But a great many children who arrived at that school came pre-equipped with stories of fearsome smackings and worse if you were ever sent to Miss O. And where did those stories come from? Why, from parents who’d heard them when they were children at the same school years before!

The Headmaster of the junior school I attended was also the Headmaster of the Senior (now Secondary) school on the same site. He’d been there for years too and I can confirm at second hand that he had caned at least one parent/child pair, the parent when they were a pupil in the Senior school, and the child years later when they were a pupil in the same school. That was a lady who used to do some work for my mother, and her daughter, who was a few years older than me. The remark came from the mother when she and my mother were talking about the school. At that time I’d just started in the Junior school, and I think it was a sort of joke effort to frighten me, but there were no details and in any event I wouldn’t have been particularly interested at that time. I’ll bet there were plenty of other cases where it happened though!

In the days when communities were much more static than they are now, and three or four generations of a family might live in the same area, great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children would often have attended the same school. Also teaching was much more of a vocation rather than a progressive career. Teachers and Headteachers often lived within a stone’s throw of their schools and sometimes stayed at the same school for their entire career. They didn’t earn very much, but, like the local policemen, everybody knew them and they had considerable status locally, almost on a par with the local doctors. And you don’t have to go back very far relatively. I was born in 1942 and that’s a description of how things were in the town I lived in when I was a young boy.


That was the amount paid to the boys to take their medicine “realistically” on film ie being hit by the cane. The youngest boy (who joined the “to be caned” list by mistake) has real tears in his eyes and is in total shock at the end of that scene. Poor kid!


In the unlikely event that anyone hasn’t seen it the caning scene from Kes, including the scenes described by andymr13, is available on YouTube here. I am indebted to hcj, who I think was the last person to post it, for this link.

Note that, like many YouTube videos, it will now run fairly happily at the expanded size. Watching at that size I was surprised to see a very attractive pair of legs ascending the stairs behind the boys waiting to go into the headmaster’s room, something I’ve overlooked before. And it’s very unusual for Another_Lurker to overlook an attractive pair of legs! 


There is a new production of the stage version of Kes at Leeds Playhouse. A review I have read contains the alarming comment that Billy “experiences first hand the harsh realities of a 1960’s capital punishment style education where a regular caning or a freezing shower was considered an acceptable form of discipline”.  I do not recall any scenes of capital punishment and suspect the reviewer meant corporal punishment although such is the level of ignorance these days that he/she might think that capital punishment meant caning. Anyway, I saw the stage version many years ago but do not recall whether it included the caning scene. Has any correspondent seen a stage version and did it include the famous scene?


as far as multi generational teaching that is extremely common in my town, when i substitute taught i had been out of school for about 16 years and there were still perhaps a dozen teachers i had had through my school years still teaching…. also a fair number of the newer teachers were the children of teachers in the district. i would say a majority of teachers younger than myself had at least one parent who was a teachers and of those a majority had taught in the district making the teachers whose parents had taught in the exact same schools very common.


l read that the composer Oliver Rudland is working on an operatic version of A Kestrel for a
Knave. l know nothing about opera but that is a mind-blowing prospect! Kes is the gift that
keeps on giving.


Yes I agree with everyone, at my school in the 1970s a lot of the senior staff had started teaching there right after the war as young men and thus had indeed taught fathers and sons as a fair few boys were second or third generation pupils. In my own family my brother and cousin attended and both my cousins boys went to the school as did his sisters son.
As boys were put in the same houses as their family members had been that would have increased the chances of being punished by the same teacher.

The other phenomenon i saw was fathers who were teachers punishing their own sons who were at the school. I know at least one boy in my year who was caned by his Dad along with a couple of other boys.


I remember seeing boys being slippered and I saw a few classroom canings too. Some lads were able to take the slipper without a murmur but some others seemed to be really hurt by it. One lesson a few boys in my class were given three hard slipper whacks. The first lad wriggled and squealed and was almost in tears when he stood up. The second one just bent over the desk and took the same but he didn’t even flinch.
It was break time soon afterwards and I said to a friend that I couldn’t understand how some boys could take the slipper or cane without any fuss. He said he thought that the ones who took it better were probably used to being spanked at home. He then asked if I was ever spanked at home. I saw no point in lying about it and said that I’d had my bottom slapped and had the slipper at home a few times. I was surprised when my friend admitted that he’d had the strap from his dad when he misbehaved at home. What I’d felt at home was never as hard as whacks with a plimsoll in school. Back then in the late 1950/early 1960s SCP in UK was seen as the usual way to punish boys


I am sure that the factors you mention are very important in regard to the ability to cope with pain.  As you note, prior experience is a great aid in dealing with any adverse experience.

However I think that individuals differ somewhat in their tolerance of pain.  I’ve been told on two occasions by doctors that I must have a very high pain threshold.  One of them actually said ridiculously high.  As an adult I’ve never needed to take pain killers.  At one stage in my life I had a couple of orthopaedic ops and self administer pain relief systems were provided during recovery.  The nurses became very agitated that I didn’t use mine.  They insisted I must have some pain.  I hadn’t.

I’ve no idea how or whether a high pain threshold  would assist me in receipt of corporal punishment.  As I’ve recorded here I certainly don’t recall any pain from my one and only slippering, but it could have been a very mild one.  However it can be a bit of a menace in everyday life.  On the occasion of the doctor’s ‘ridiculouly high’ comment I’d been continuing to do something after an accident that could have done further harm, and from which I should have been deterred by the pain.  But there wasn’t any.


You’re absolutely right A-L, pain and the reaction to it differs immensely with different people. How different boys reacted to the slipper or cane was also something to do with how they thought they should react too. I’m sure some lads ‘absorbed’ the whacks to show how tough they were also not to give the person spanking them the satisfaction of knowing how much the punishment was hurting. Others just howled and leapt about to try to show the punishment was hurting and perhaps with the hope of the whacks being reduced in quantity or force.
I suspect that many headmasters or teachers who knew the ‘game’ well and could sense how effective the punishment was without the reactions of the victim. The lad who told me that he had the strap at home was a solidly built sort of person whereas I was fairly slightly built back then.
It was the same with marks some lads seemed to mark more easily. This was the time when sticking plasters or scabs on knees were commonplace with most lads. Our parents had grown up with the hardships of WW2 and many had been used to a sore bottom in their youth too.
My mother generally approved of SCP provided it was deserved. It was just the way of things back then. There was never any thought of me being punished at home further after SCP. However if I played up at home I would get sent to bed early and if my behaviour really warranted it my pyjama trousers would come down.
I have not mentioned SCP for girls. Back then I knew very little of girls!

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