Discipline Administered on a School Trip

Has anyone had stories of either yourself or someone being punished on a school trip for misbehaving, especially those which involve overnight stays?

My experience relates back to the early 1980s and a school trip to London. It was when I was in the fifth form and about thirty of us went on a mid-week break to London. For many of us it was our first visit to the capital and to spend four nights away with our school friends. We were from a mixed-gender comprehensive school in Northern England and the coach journey took almost seven hours. On arrival, we were given our room keys (sharing 2/3 to a room) and after unpacking ate dinner at around 7 pm, afterwards we were allowed free time in the hotel communal areas to ourselves and were allowed to purchase soft drinks from the bar. We had to be in bed by 10 pm.

One of the girls got chatting with a young man in the bar and decided she wanted to stay in the bar after the 10 pm deadline. The rest of us had gone to bed as requested by the teachers. In the morning we found out she had been drinking alcohol (against the rules), as well as breaking the curfew. Two of the teachers who had gone to the bar had spotted her and told the young man she was only sixteen and part of a school party. The girl was frogmarched to her room by a senior female teacher and ordered to report to her before breakfast the next morning in her full school uniform (throughout the stay we wore our home clothes, except for an event at the Science Museum)

The next morning the girl was told she would be reported to the school headmaster when they returned home at the end of the week. The teacher also made the girl pack her clothes (except her nightwear and underwear) into her suitcase, which the teacher then took from her, leaving her with just the school uniform she was wearing. Later that day a member of staff called into Marks and Spencer at Marble Arch to buy her two white blouses, and a few pairs of white knee socks (this was when only girls in the sixth form were permitted to wear nylons with their school uniform), to last her for the remainder of the week.

During the week we visited many of the London attractions including the Tower of London, a boat trip on the Thames, London Zoo and a West End Musical. The rest of us were dressed in our home clothes and the girls either wore trousers or skirts with tights (which they couldn’t in their school uniform) while she had the embarrassment of wearing her school uniform with juvenile white knee socks all the time. Wearing school uniform stopped her from repeating what she did on her first evening and acted as a deterrent to anyone else thinking of misbehaving that way.

When she got back late on Friday evening no doubt she got a stern telling off from her parents, who were probably also less than pleased with a bill for the purchased blouses and socks. The following Monday at school she received six strokes of the cane on her left (non-handwriting) hand.

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An interesting account. One wonders if the teachers contacted the girl’s parents by telephone before taking the action they did, in particular with regard to the purchasing of the school uniform-type clothing. I would have thought that it would have been sensible for them to do so.

Six strokes of the cane on one hand would have been a severe punishment I think. ?

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Corporal punishment was used until it was made illegal in 1986. It was only used for the most serious offences. A boy in our class was caned (several strokes on one hand) for calling a black teacher “Toby” after the principal character in the classic TV series Roots. No one who agreed with corporal punishment would argue its use was justified here. There was a rule that anyone receiving the cane could not be made a prefect in the fifth form. About half of the fifth-formers became prefects.

The girl on the school trip was caned because she had consumed alcohol, which was regarded as a serious offence. Having her home clothes taken away for the duration of the trip would have been seen as ample punishment if she had simply broken the 10 pm curfew.  Having to wear her uniform with white kneesocks all week in London must have been tough.

The following year the uniform rule was changed so fifth-form prefects wore more grown-up nylons instead of socks. I cannot remember if the girl had been perfect, but if she had she would have been no longer one as a result of being caned. If this modification to the school rule had been in place a year earlier then she may have found herself having to go back to wearing socks after being in nylons. This amended rule only lasted a year after which all girls in the 4th form and above were allowed to wear nylon tights and then it was finally extended to all age groups.

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You say of the caning regime that:

A boy in our class was caned (several strokes on one hand) for calling a black teacher “Toby” after the principal character in the classic TV series Roots. No one who agreed with corporal punishment would argue its use was justified here.

I am not sure of your meaning here. Personally, I’d have said that in the era concerned a severe caning was well justified in that case.

The concept of prefects in the 5th form is an interesting one. Did you have a 6th form and did that also include prefects? If so did these older prefects have greater powers than the 5th-form prefects

You will note that the author herself indicates that a certain amount of embellishment may be involved. Personally, I am inclined to take well-written accounts of SCP at face value. A weakness I know, but as the Sherpa people of Nepal are reputed to say “Maybe true, maybe not true. Better you believe”. They of course are however often referring to reports which might presage danger in the mountains, not accounts of SCP!

The author of the account linked subsequently named the school concerned and was then subjected to a great deal of unpleasantness both here and outwith the Forum. So much so that the police apparently became involved and an arrest was claimed. At that stage, because I had been instrumental in persuading her to post her accounts here for a second time, the author anxiously queried if I was sitting in an Australian prison cell. Happily, I wasn’t! It is to be hoped though that our current readers will not be moved to the levels of bitterness and invective which for some reason characterised that incident.

I think there may be other accounts here meeting your criteria. One at least is nagging at the fringes of my memory but I cannot yet frame search terms which might find it. If I locate that one or others, I will post them.


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Just some further clarifications

Regarding the boy who was caned for a racist comment to a teacher, the phrase I used “No one who agreed with corporal punishment would argue its use was justified here”, is a reflection on how controversial corporal punishment was seen back then. I am implying that those who agreed with corporal punishment in schools would have supported the way the boy was punished.

There was a campaign body called Stop (School Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment) that was quite vocal and no doubt contributed to the subsequent abolition of corporal punishment in UK schools.

Regarding prefects in the fifth form, this was because we effectively had two sets of prefects back then reflecting the structure of the school. There were four houses that covered pupils from the first to the fifth form. Some of the oldest pupils in each house were selected by the Head of House (with advice from form teachers) to serve as prefects in the fifth form. As prefects, you wore a prefect badge and your duties comprised monitoring the lunch queue and door duty on the House block buildings during breaks.

The majority of pupil’s school left at the end of the fifth form and only a small proportion stayed on at sixth form either for a 2 year “A” level course or an extra year for Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) pupils to upgrade to General Certificate of Education (GCE) “O” levels. Some of the latter group had three years in the sixth form going to take “A” levels. All sixth formers were assigned prefect duties monitoring the doors on other non-House-specific buildings. The only connection with your former house in the sixth form was to attend the weekly house assembly in the school hall where you sat on the stage with the teachers.

The original girl’s uniform policy, although in many senses was discriminatory when compared to boys, did at least mean all girls wore similar uniforms. Allowing nylon tights just for fifth-form prefects backfired. No doubt it was seen as a positive way of recognising the alleged more mature behaviour expected from prefects, but it ended up causing resentment from non-prefects and some prefects taunted their non-prefect peers. As I said in my previous post anyone receiving the cane was barred from becoming a prefect, but the prefects were largely selected from the top sets (who took GCE “O” levels) and being in the lower sets meant them being left out even if they were well behaved (took the easier CSE course). Teenage girls can be particularly nasty to each other, so having the brighter girls doing a higher level exam course (that could lead to better job prospects), they were also usually prefects and some were belittling towards those who still had to wear white socks. This idea of having this separate uniform rule for prefects was ditched after a year.

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There was always someone getting punished on school trips.

My turn was on a school trip. The school had booked out a whole lot of apartments and were 4 or 5 boys or girls to a unit.

Of course, we were trying to sneak into the girls’ rooms – over the balconies mind you when we were seen by the teacher.

Got a lecture and the immortal wait until tomorrow…after breakfast, we had to report to the teachers’ room where 4 of the 5 of us were paddled. (One of our roommates was on a no-spank instruction from his parents so we had to take his licks too). Got 4 licks for the misbehaviour and 1 lick for John each.

The bus ride wasn’t much fun that day

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From my own research, it seems the corporal punishment of girls increased during the 1980’s, up until it was abolished.

The girl  was subsequently caned, was probably a very mature, confident teenage girl, both physically and mentally. She was probably a bit of a livewire, too. Let’s be honest, girls do mature quicker than us lads. I assume, too, she was attractive. (Goodness me,
I can recall girls at my school in 1970 when I was in the fifth form. They wouldn’t have given me, a mere skinny, quite soppy boy, a look, but always seemed to be attracted to much older guys!! BLAST!!). Obviously, you knew this girl quite well. Was she an attractive girl? And was she a tad more mature than the rest of you?

However, she transgressed. And it was a very serious matter and could have resulted in dire consequences. The guy she met at the bar was older and he could have manipulated her in many different ways. My thinking is, had the two staff members not come to the bar, the girl could have gone off somewhere with this guy: clubbing, for example? After that, who knows? I think any school, in any decade, would have treated the matter in a similar way to how your school did. Today it would have resulted in suspension. As you point out in your second posting, it was the consumption of alcohol that prompted the caning, and for simply breaking curfew, the wearing of a uniform for the duration of the trip was sufficient punishment.

I will come back to the matter of the cane later, but the instruction for her to wear only their school uniform for the rest of the trip was interesting. So a senior female staff member gave her a sound dressing down the following morning. May I ask you, what was the girl’s reaction to this? Did she readily accept that she was in the wrong or was she defensive and indignant about how the staff on the trip dealt with her?

She must have felt quite humiliated in having to wear a uniform for the duration of her stay in London. I did find it amusing that the staff went out to Marks & Spencer to purchase two blouses and socks for her! Brilliant! As you say, I bet her parents weren’t too pleased when they got the bill.

I was quite surprised that sixth formers had to wear uniforms, but pretty surprised, too, that at the time of this incident, girls in the fifth couldn’t wear tights. I was only thinking the other day that schools today, certainly the state sector, are ‘sticklers’ for uniforms, but are far less pedantic than the schools of the 1980s. I can only imagine that girls at your school at that time got a bit uptight about the regulation. Then one year later they decide to relax the regulation, but only for fifth-form prefects. When this regulation was abolished a year later, was it because of growing pressure from the student council/pupils and parents?

You mentioned a boy being caned for calling a black teacher, ‘Toby.’ You say ‘several strokes on the hand.’ Can I assume that your school caned on the hand, exclusively?

I find it odd that if you were caned, you could not be considered a prefect. For me, I’d have thought, once caned, the slate would be wiped clean, so to speak.

You say the cane was only used for the most serious offences. Thus, I assume, it was used rarely. Can I assume girls were infrequently caned or were they caned as much as boys?

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Yes, the girl in question was mature for her age and as I remember one of the first to start dating boys. Outside school she always wore trendy clothes and dated boys who were usually older than her. The confiscation of her home clothes during the school trip must have really gotten to her. She school left after taking her “O” levels; I think she got a job (entry-level clerical jobs were available back then), but she might have gone to the Technical College which was the educational alternative to going into the Sixth Form.

The school uniform was nothing particularly special, a black blazer with a sewn-on school badge on the front pocket, a grey pullover and a knee-length grey skirt for girls, with grey trousers for boys. We all wore the school tie. In the Sixth Form, it was different; the pullover and trousers/skirts were black with a different tie.

When I was in the fifth form (the time of the London trip), this was the last year all girls of that age had to wear white socks (3/4 length). The other secondary schools in the town allowed girls of that age to wear tights and one school allowed girls to wear trousers, so we were a bit behind in that sense. The following year when I was in lower sixth, as I said before, they changed the rules to allow fifth-form prefects to wear tights and the idea was to acknowledge the status of being a prefect. Also, all prefects had a special tie.

The privilege that only prefects could wear tights only lasted a year due to the resentment it got from non-prefects and the belittling some non-prefect fifth formers received. Prefects primarily did “door duty”, but could hand out up to 50 lines for minor offences. As a prefect myself I only had to give outlines on one occasion to a younger boy for a refusal to leave the building during a lunch break, but I heard of an incident where a prefect had given another fifth former, who was a non-prefect, lines for not having her white socks pulled up properly. During my time as a prefect from the fifth form onwards, neither had I or my friends had given lines for a school uniform infringement, and I strongly suspect it was bullying by the prefect to demean the victim. When I was in the upper sixth all girls above the fourth form could wear nylons, and only one or two continued to wear socks (probably because of their parents).

The girl was caned in private on the Monday after the school trip. The girl’s parents were informed and the caning was undertaken by a senior female member of staff. Male teachers were not allowed to cane girls and a written record had to be made. A caning in a London hotel room would not have been permitted (although some members of the establishment might act differently!), so if any serious punishment was necessary on a school trip it would wait until the school party had returned home.