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School Discipline

The Age of Caning

I am referring here to proper rattan canings, boys only, on the buttocks and laid on hard.

“Prime” can mean:

  1. the age at which school boys were most at risk of being caned, or
  2. the age at which caning was most beneficial, or
  3. the age at which canings were of most interest to connoisseurs.

I have long been puzzled by the apparent youth of those who have reported being punished in the Corporal Punishment Survey thread and elsewhere in this forum.  In NZ most boys were not exposed to the cane until the 3rd form . A few were first exposed in the 1st and 2nd forms in so-called intermediate schools. Not all districts had such schools and not all intermediates caned. Hands were usually strapped at primary school.

“Turds” (newbies, freshers) had come from small schools to a much bigger one where they were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They were intimidated by the change and generally feared the cane having been fed a lot of hyperbole by all and sundry. The lucky got caned early in the school year. The rest had an anxious wait.

Forth form boys had found their feet and their fear of the cane had been replaced by a healthy respect. They were the most frequently caned collecting mainly one or two strokes at a time.

Fifth form boys probably accrued more cane strokes than forths as they usually got more strokes per caning than younger boys.

Many fewer academic boys left at the end of the school year , from the fifth form. A few who failed the important School Certificate exam repeated their 5th form year. They were among the most caned boys in the school. They were often bored and were not afforded the privileges of their peers who had gone onto the sixth form. If a teacher needed to make an example they would often choose a tried and tested second year fifth for a dose of the stick.

Sixth and upper sixth (often called seventh) form classes were small and all students willingly at school. They were rarely caned but could count on getting six if they were. Interest came form the rarity and severity of the canings and all enjoyed the notion of goodie goodies and the privileged being cut down to size.


I had my first caning in the first year( Year 7) of secondary school. I was chattering in assembly and was sent to head where I received 2 strokes across the backside. I was caned in all years thereafter including in the lower 6th. All the canings hurt and left my backside well-marked. I also received quite a few slipperings mostly across PE shorts. They were designed to hurt and didn’t disappoint leaving my bottom with a bruise.


this form of punishment was on offer in our junior school in the seventies [ from age to seven to eleven ].i never heard of it being used apart from the once on two classmates in our last year at junior school .this was perhaps more used as a veiled threat to any naughty boys


When I was at school in 1970s, the cane wasn’t really used in primary schools, although children of that age were sometimes hit with slippers or rulers or just slapped on the legs.  Probably at secondary school, the cane was used most on older boys.  Younger boys got hit more, but that was more commonly the slipper.  If anyone older than that was caned, then it would be for smoking, or something fairly serious.  Mine was a grammar school, so we didn’t have large number of pupils who got into trouble all the time because they didn’t want to be in school, which was a problem in some other schools.


NZ Present day Stats

Offences once routinely punished cheaply and quickly by four or six strokes of the cane now may result in stand-downs of up to 5 days at the principal’s discretion. This is a lesser measure than suspension, exclusion or expulsion from school.

Ideally, “stand-downs offer the chance for both parties to reflect on the action which lead to the stand-down and to reduce tension in the situation. Schools (supposedly) work with students and their parents and wider family to address behaviour issues and to focus on the students’ engagement, progress and achievement, for the welfare and long-term outcomes for students.”

In my day, drugs were unknown and teachers were never physically attacked. Smoking was 4-stroke offence.  I was never aware of anyone being suspended or expelled.

The apparent low incident of assaults on staff, theft, vandalism and arson may be due only the most minor offences being dealt with by stand-down.


In the UK in the 70s at my primary school there was only one case of a boy getting the ruler on his hand in front of the class.  At secondary school about a third to half of boys had been caned by the head or slippered by the games teacher, girls were exempt from all forms of corporal punishment.


The heading ‘Prime Age’ caught my eye. My first thought was how different we were as youngsters in the past. My schooldays were 1950s/60s. Were we more robust back then or not?
I agree to agree with the previous comments concerning age. In my senior school, UK boys grammar, the cane was used not excessively but it wasn’t exactly unusual. It was rare for first-formers to be caned and much the same for most second-years. That said both first and second years were sometimes caned for serious offences. The usual punishment for them was the slipper, a couple of whacks with a plimsoll, across the seat of the trousers. By the third form, we were seen as a bit more grown-up and expected to be more responsible. Even then the cane was generally only used for serious punishments. There were some things that could automatically earn a boy a caning. Truancy, fighting and smoking were usually punished by caning. The cane was not used for correcting poor work. Generally, it was two or three firm strokes on the clothed backside. It was normally given in private but sometimes if two or three lads were in the same trouble they’d be caned together. Other punishments included detentions, lines or from some more imaginative teachers, some sort of task like litter collecting or from one teacher weeding the school playing field of dandelions with an old blunt knife with a pot of two to fill. The plimsoll was still used but less often after the third year.
Back then most parents approved of SCP provided it was deserved. I don’t remember any parents complaining if their son was caned. A good number of parents themselves still used some form of corporal punishment at home in the past. I received a few school canings, always deserved, that really hurt and left my bottom marked and sore for a while.

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