Natural Light

School Daze Part 1

I've been meaning to get this off my chest for a long time and I know that by doing so I'm going to feel so much better for it. Kay knows the stories well. I've bored her to tears with them for years, so by getting them "out there", perhaps I'll get some closure and peace of mind with the whole thing.

This blog is all about my experiences of abuse within the schools I attended between 1971 and 1976. Let's be clear right from the start about the abuse - it was predominantly of the mental torture and physical punishment kind and was not of a sexual nature - except for one incident I witnessed that made me feel uneasy and which I will describe later.

Back in the 1970's, the cane or ruler ruled. I don't know what your stance on punishment is, but mine is firmly of the belief that it is fundamentally *wrong*. No human should inflict pain and suffering upon another (except in establishments whereupon a fiscal transaction has occurred) , but in schools across the UK at that time, kids like me were abused (for that is what it was) on a daily basis. I can clearly recall our form teacher, from the final year of Junior school (we would have been 11year olds in 1971) resigning due to the fact that the acting headteacher had pre-emptied the local governments decision to abolish corporal punishment in schools by banning it a year earlier in our school. He took up a post in a nearby High school so as to enjoy the privilege of the slipper/ruler/cane for a while longer. This man was no thickie. He was intelligent and mostly good humoured. He was a good teacher and believe it or not, we liked him a great deal but he did like to exercise his arm regularly, and he could be quick to temper. One incident springs to mind. Our school was small and drastically underfunded. We had no sports field, so had to walk a mile up a steep road to use that of a neighbouring school. Whilst in the changing room, one boy (I'm going to call him John) misbehaved. Now John didn't smash a window, punch anyone of even curse. I remember him and he was a good kid. Unfortunately, he got on the wrong side of our teacher that morning and was subjected to a humiliating thrashing across his bottom with a canvas sports shoe in front of us all. I remember feeling sick at the sight of it ; the way in which the teacher drew out the punishment, thereby heightening the fear, by informing John of what was to happen and indeed, when - for the punishment was not immediate, but carefully planned to take place AFTER our sports session ended. I do not remember anything of the sports we partook of that day, but I clearly remember sitting on the wooden bench in the changing room with my friends as John wept and was shouted at to "Stop crying because they were only  crocodile tears". The shoe was white..funny how you remember things like that and it hit John maybe half a dozen times with vigour." Six of the best" it was called.

I had the ruler whilst in the last year of Junior school, not from our form teacher, but from the headteacher herself. Looking back on her now I reckon she should really have been quietly removed from her position and given the medication and counselling she probably needed. She was past it, old school  (LOL) and standing on the borderline of senility.Let's call her Miss Tweed. She drove a brown Morris Minor and drank "Camp coffee". No, it's not a brand of coffee favoured by the gay know it don't you? It's that ersatz coffee liquid chicory beverage and I clearly recall the stuff in her office. Did I deserve to have the wooden 12 inch ruler brought down hard on my knuckles? You decide.............It was Friday afternoon. The best day of the week. I lived a five minute trot away down the exotically named Rookery Lane and was looking forward to getting home to an exciting glass of milk and an individual fruit pie (I was only 11 years old for goodness sake). I celebrated my imminent release from captivity by swinging my duffel coat over my head as I climbed the stairs to the school exit. No one was near me. in fact, I was probably the last to leave because I was then and still am now a highly disorganised individual and was messing around with my satchel (no jokes please) trying to find stuff. I would not have entertained the idea of swinging the coat in the presence of another person. Duffel coats have large horn shaped buttons that could cause injury. So I swung the coat and swung again round and round so elated was I that I would soon be home in front of the  black and white valve  TV and it's grainy images shouting "Crackerjack" at the top of my voice. Non UK residents, just Google "Crackerjack" and if you're unlucky, there may be a clip or two of this truly crap (yet popular) kids show.

I was clearly in a meditative state, for I was unaware of the presence of Miss Tweed even as I was almost upon her. Her face was blank. Come to think of it, her face was always blank. Anyway, I  soon found myself unexpectedly in her austere little office. I thought it unwise to ask for two sugars in my Camp . Instead I stood there dumbstruck as she explained that my recent actions were not only dangerous to others (There were no others..) but that my character could only be compared to that of Hitler or Stalin . Well, she didn't go that far, but she made it quite clear that I had behaved like an utter scoundrel and the only possible course of action was for her to administer a large dollop of pain to my digits. She didn't manage to chop off any fingers,. In fact they  continued to function and develop as normal  and  7 years later when I had blossomed into the local Hercules I used them to strangle her and bury her sad body in a shallow grave near Bristol. Just kidding. It was Bournemouth actually. No really I'm joking, but I did feel inclined to give her a custard pie in the face.

Moving on to High school now. I hated all of it and loath the sight of it even now. It's in my home town of Stoke-on Trent and for those of you with too much time on their hands and want to Google Earth it, it's called Oakhill school, or Oakhill Primary school, for now that is what it has become. My primary school buildings have long gone to make way for nothing, yet the memories linger. It housed a meagre 300 pupils. Tiny really, but to us green 12 year olds it was like San Quentin. Well, no, not San Quentin, as non of us I'm sure had heard of Johnny Cash or indeed experienced the interior of any penal institution, but to us it was large and ugly, like our chemistry teacher. Some of us were unable to tell the difference, and these individuals naturally progressed into the heady world of politics and accountancy (but not many for out of the whole of our final year, only two pupils made it to university. One got a degree and the other flunked out and ended up in jail for assaulting someone whilst inebriated. The first day at high school. Can you remember yours?  Oh how proud our parents were. All crisp new uniforms. Satchels (again) replete with shiny buckles and smelling very leathery. Inside was all the paraphernalia required to transform us from the inner city urchins we were to the captains of industry that we were surely destined to be. Or drunks assaulting strangers whilst inebriated. I just took the route to the inebriated stage and left out all that unnecessary assaulting bit.

I recall stepping into the playground on that first day and an older boy - let's call him Hammerhead, grabbed my shiny new briefcase and gave it a jolly good kicking . He was a dickhead throughout his time at school and probably ended up inside or worse like working at Asda. So, with newly flattened briefcase, I ascended the steps into this alien world wondering if I would survive the day. Well, I did survive and there were laughs along the way , but for the most part I detested it . I even punched a dickhead in the mouth one day, but that's another story.

I'm cutting now to the core of the story and will introduce the character whose very presence at the school  made me uneasy. I can only call him Bastard. Not even a Mr. Bastard. Sly, sadistic, cruel, powerfully built, sickeningly athletic and morally reprehensible. These were his good points. He hated kids. Well, he hated kids who were athletically challenged. I was one such child. Gangly, uncoordinated & shy with no interest whatsoever in sport of any kind. I had neither the strength or agility to kick a football more than two feet in front of me and was once humiliated in front of the whole class by being forced to kick a ball repeatedly until it actually moved forwards. I'm back there now , 12 years old trying to move the ball while kids laughed and the exasperated Bastard screamed abuse. He was a good screamer, I'll give him that. He would have made a good Sergeant Major. Of course, Bastard loved the sporty kids..and here's the bit..I remember the times when he hung around the shower room a little too long - a bunch of 12 year olds under freezing showers. Did he really have to stand so close for so long? That's all I'm saying on the matter.


To be continued.....


Kath said…
Sime I'mm sorry those things had to happen to you. I can see where your wonderfully kind and empathic parenting has risen from. As my son would say "Respect" x
dreamer said…
Thanks for sharing,I know how stuff like that can leave lasting mental scars. My much older OH had a similar experience, he won a scholarship to a prestigious catholic boys school, despite being C of E, it was run by the Christian Brothers at that time.He suffered daily physical and mental abuse by the brothers for 5 years, especially as he was the only "proddy dog" amongst 1000 pupils.Worse was when he tried to tell his parents about it he was often punished again as they reckoned he must have done something to deserve it.He learnt nothing at school other than how to fight and defend himself and at 15 ran away from home and didn't return until years later.It left him with a passion for fighting injustice and protecting the underdog.The Christian Brothers have since as an organisation apologised for some of the brutality in their schools during that period(50's), but I wonder how many young lives they damaged along the way.Respect to you both for home schooling your children in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect.
Hi Kath,
Thank you for your kind words. It's been a form of therapy for me these last couple of days.
Good to get it all out in the open without fear of arrest!
Sime :-)
Hi Dreamer,
Thanks for your kind words. Sorry to hear about the awful experiences of your partner, they sound much worse than anything I went through. I wonder what it's like for today's school kids?
Bye for now,
Sime :-)
Anonymous said…
Another story of innocent children being abused by teachers - it makes me sick. We are always taught to respect teachers, but some of them make it very difficult. You are incredibly brave to be sharing your story. I hope it helps you to heal.