Being Sent Out of Class

I recently initiated some discussion of school detention and this is in a similar vein.  I read somewhere else someone recalled being sent out of class for misbehaving and that triggered a lot of memories, mainly in my junior school years. There was a sort of sliding scale of responses if you were too chatty or too disruptive to the work of others in the class.  I suppose the initial response was to get told off and warned; ignore that and then it depended on how serious your disruptive behaviour was deemed to be (and to some extent, the general level of misbehaviour that impacted on how much change in overall class behaviour was required). First up was getting sent to stand in a corner or (especially once they ran out of corners) perhaps facing the wall – nose on the blackboard sometimes. That could be ramped up a bit more by making you put your hands on your head which had your arms aching fairly quickly. That was a bit embarrassing because everyone would see you were in disgrace. Some teachers favoured making you to stand on your seat – again, perhaps with your hands on your head. That was a bit worse because you could see everyone looking at you and smirking. The next step up after that was usually where you got sent out of the classroom.

On the other side people talked about wandering off home early, or going to the shops, or being required to sit outside the headmaster’s office (or headmistress) and some talked about going off for a crafty fag in the toilets. None of those could apply to my school. You were required to stand and remain in sight of the (glass-panelled) classroom door. If there happened to be seats or benches out there you were not allowed to sit. In extreme cases, the hands-on-your-head addition was required. Usually, you were left out there for ten minutes or so and then called back in. Sometimes two or more would be sent out and you weren’t supposed to talk but of course, you did but tried to keep it very quiet. There were some classes I quite enjoyed being sent out of, especially when I had someone to talk to, and felt disappointed if I was allowed back in.

However, there was a pretty big downside as I discovered on about the third time I go sent out. If our headmaster was bored he would go for a wander around the corridors to see if anyone had been sent out. He would set out “equipped” – that particular school didn’t use a traditional cane but he did use a plimsoll, a short stick that he seemed to have a particular liking for or quite a heavy ruler. The first time he caught me (and a friend) outside a class he had the ruler with him. He hadn’t heard us talking so it was just the behaviour that led to being there that concerned him so we both had to touch our toes for a single whack with the ruler. What I hadn’t appreciated before was that his technique with the ruler was to hit you edge-on. It really, really stung and when I looked later I had a single red line straight across the middle of my bottom.

He had an excellent memory for who he’d caught before and the number of whacks increased by one each time. If he caught you talking as well, you got double so it could, for those sent out many times, quickly become quite a serious risk. However, the reality was he didn’t have much spare time and probably nine times out of ten you’d just serve your time outside and then get called back in.

Actually, although I was sent out a few times, my main speciality was getting others around me blamed for making a disturbance,


Hi, Alan.  I remember teachers telling us that in previous times (the 1950s, 1960s) they noticed that kids tended to naturally gravitate so the boys and girls sat in different areas of the classroom, not because they were told to.  Apparently, a more stereotypical layout was all the boys at the back and the girls at the front.  This wasn’t really the case when I was at school in the 1970s.


I would say it would be very much about causing physical discomfort, both in having to get up at a ridiculously early hour and in having to swim in the cold water.  But if the students are normally fit (and we must assume that school staff would know their students well enough to assess that) neither is going to cause them other than relatively short-term discomfort.

Further, It may be considered by the students less demeaning than corporal punishment, and less unpleasant and annoying than writing an essay, detention, ISS or other relative punishments, though of the course students always have a range of opinions on such matters.

At a British school in the era depicted (the 1950s) if the circumstances indicated that punishment was indicated and the school authorities decided that it was also due, it was almost invariably delivered, and in a format chosen by the school authorities, not the student.  If a student refused the punishment sooner or later they would be expelled from the school, especially at the type of school depicted.

While a few managed to cope with expulsion(s) from school(s) without any great detriment to their education or future career, most didn’t, and parents, the school, and probably the student would regard expulsion as something to be avoided if at all possible.

So although I dislike having to get up early (unless it’s an emergency and I’m being well paid for it, though that doesn’t happen much these days and I am also no great fan of swimming, especially in very cold water, I would have obeyed the teacher’s instructions and served the punishment.  And I think most sensible students would have done likewise.