You might be surprised to know that Purley Grammar School is in the Premier League when it comes to Canings ( Not at all says Mr. George Nick of Caterham Drive, "Why do you think I worked there for 35 years, mmmmm "). So read on. Was the author, Colin Farrell, the muscled lad who broke Nigel Bowles 100m sprint record ?
|www.corpun.com : Features : Purley High|
FASCINATING FACTS REVISITED
by Colin Farrell
Updated from an article in the "Fascinating Facts" series by Colin Farrell,
written for a British magazine in 1985 under the pen-name Jon Jackson.
THE IDEA of the "great whacking schools" may conjure up an image of the 18th century, so it is good to remind ourselves occasionally that we have had equivalents in much more recent times.
Of course only a few such schools are ever publicised, usually by chance. Purley High School for Boys, in Croydon, might think itself unlucky, since it received national publicity when its c.p. statistics were revealed in 1977, even though it later proved to be by no means unique.
Croydon just happened to be the site of the headquarters of Britain's anti-CP organisation STOPP, and the London Borough of Croydon became the first local education authority (LEA) to be badgered into collecting and publishing statistics from its punishment books.
INSISTED HE TAKE A CANING
However, it is a little earlier that year that the school first appears in my press cuttings collection. 16-year-old John Alkins, just two weeks before he was due to leave anyway, was seen smoking at a bus stop during a break from exams:
The boy refused the caning and was therefore expelled, though he was permitted to finish his exams. This storm in a teacup caused the local paper to be bombarded with letters from parents and pupils, every one of them supporting the school:
There was much more in similar vein, and so it was already clear, even before the main storm broke, that most of the local populace were right behind the no-nonsense Mr Akers in his scholastic methods.
Purley High is a former grammar school, by the 1970s a comprehensive, in a very well-heeled leafy suburban area. It is on the very edge of Greater London. Croydon has several single-sex secondary schools, some of which, unlike most of Britain, are split into two age ranges, 11-14 and 14- 18. Purley High is a 14-18 school, so ALL its 900 pupils are boys in the fourth and fifth form or various levels of sixth form.
CANE THE ONLY INSTRUMENT ALLOWED
On 12 December 1977, Croydon Education Committee's chairman broke new ground by releasing, at the request of members opposed to c.p., statistics from the borough's punishment books for school year 1976/7. As far as I can discover, this was the first time such revelations had ever been made in the UK.
The figures showed that 22 out of Croydon's 35 secondary schools had used c.p. (7 out of the 13 non-c.p. schools being girls-only). There were 1,324 punishment book entries in total, broken down into reasons for punishment, with the vague "breach of school rules" leading the field with 286 entries, but also including for example 113 for truancy, 81 for smoking and 69 for fighting. These 1,324 punishments (all with the cane, the only instrument allowed by Croydon's regulations) were inflicted on 760 pupils; 200 were caned on more than one occasion, so several of them must have been caned quite a lot more often than once.
Purley High's punishment book for two of the three terms of 1976/7 had been 'stolen', but it was clear from the school's figure for the remaining one-third of the year -- 144 canings, or an average of over two canings per school day -- that Purley was well in the lead: the next school in the league table, Overbury, recorded 240 inflictions of c.p. over the whole year.
All these novel facts were soon being raked over by the press, their attention having been drawn to them by STOPP (which issued a statement calling for a special government inquiry into Croydon schools). Purley High had little trouble justifying its policy:
Once again, the columns of local newspapers filled up with pupils, parents and teachers at Purley High rushing to the school's defence:
Purley High was certainly run along unusually traditional lines. Consider the school's 'Rules and Procedure for the Guidance of Parents and Boys', 1978 edition. They don't mention caning but they must have left the prospective parent and pupil in little doubt about the style of the place. Here are just a few extracts:
TWO STROKES ON THE BACKSIDE
Interviewed in 1978 after he had been at Purley High for twelve months, one 15-year-old boy described the system of 'circuits' used for minor punishments -- running up and down a nearby hill called 'Happy Valley' for an hour or more. He went on: "The head always over-runs on his headmaster's lesson. I cut it just before the first half-term. I went to Mr Akers' office. There were three of us. He talked from 10.30 until 12.30. We were standing there. He insisted we should have the cane. I asked for a postponement and chose to be caned by Mr Davies. Mr Davies gave me 2 strokes on the backside with a cane. There was no-one in the room; it was after school. This was recorded" [in the punishment book].
The boy then described how he had been given a circuit for handing in a note too late, and then missed the assembly in which his circuit was read out. "If you miss a circuit you have to go to Mr Akers. He said I had to have the cane. I said I thought it was unfair. He sat me out in the hall and he called my parents in the afternoon. I sat outside and various teachers said I should be sensible and have the cane. It is not automatic if given a circuit that you go on the next one. You have to wait for your name to be read out, in assembly. After a lot of arguing with my parents they agreed that I should be caned. Mr Davies caned me, one stroke. Mr Akers was present ...The next time N---- and I did 2 up on a bike, the prefects chased us in a car and caught us in Chipstead Valley Road. They reported it and we were caned 2 strokes each by Mr Davies. Mr James witnessed it ...."
The mother of another 15-year-old boy described how her son had been 'gated' -- made to report at 8.10 every morning and stay for an hour's extra lesson from 4 to 5 p.m. This boy had been caned ten times during his first year at the school. His mother only realised this, she said, when she saw "heavy marks on his backside" as he was getting out of the bath.
An older boy, who started at Purley High in 1976, had been caned by four different department heads. One of these, Mr Wozniak, had given him 2 strokes on the backside with a long thick cane: "He has a variety; he made himself a little oblong box to keep them in". On that particular occasion all but two of the whole class were caned together for "mucking about". This master, he said, "takes two steps forward and hits you; some of the others take a running jump".
These accounts bear out Mr Akers' public claim that Purley High canings were usually "once or twice on the behind" but another boy, aged 17 in 1978, said he had had several 4-stroke canings and several 3-stroke ones, from Mr Akers himself and from year heads. This boy said he had received 10 canings during one term, summer 1977, and that many of these were never entered in the punishment book. So it seems likely that, as with many other schools where teachers are too busy to complete all the bureaucracy, the official figures considerably understate the true level of whacking. "On your school report it said how often you got caned": one of his canings had been for looking round in assembly. Others were for having the wrong colour socks, and for leaving the top shirt button undone on more than one occasion.
THE CANE FOR SIXTH-FORM BOYS
One of the most interesting things about the figures first released for Purley High was the revelation that occasionally the school even used the cane for sixth-form boys (who could be aged 17 or even 18). In 1976/7 there were six such canings.
As always the fuss quickly died down. Croydon LEA had decided to release punishment book statistics every year - a commendable example of 'open government' from a local authority that had no intention of abolishing c.p. But it was not until mid-1979 that the 1977/8 figures appeared. This time Purley High's punishment book had not been lost. Out of a total of 1,581 recorded canings in all Croydon's secondary schools that year, Purley High accounted for 394 - once again, an average rate of about two per school day. This time 13 sixth-formers had been caned, two of them on two separate occasions each, making 15 sixth-form canings in all. The press once more made the most of it:
The heavier papers gave STOPP's view more prominence:
After all that publicity, the statistics for the next two years -- 1978/9 and 1979/80 -- do show a considerable drop, both for Croydon as a whole and for Purley High:
It might only be, of course, that teachers became even more forgetful about entering their punishments in the book. Or perhaps Croydon LEA brought pressure to bear on all its schools to cut back on the caning - there certainly seems to have been no wish by Purley High to do so of its own volition.
However, in 1978/9 Purley was joined by its equivalent school in the north of the borough, Selhurst High (another 14-18 boys' comprehensive), in caning sixth-formers. Three sixth-formers were caned at Selhurst and four at Purley. In fact Selhurst temporarily overtook Purley High at the top of the Croydon caning league that year, with 208 canings (up from 152 the previous year.)
STRICT ADHERENCE TO THE RULES
By the early 1980s many other LEAs had followed Croydon's lead in publishing statistics from punishment books. So the figures were no longer such a novelty for the press or public, and STOPP began to find it harder to stir up publicity against schools which -- it was now clear -- were not alone in making relatively heavy use of c.p. Thus, when Croydon issued its 1980/1 and 1981/2 whacking figures in mid-1983, it was only on the local paper that the weary hacks rose to the bait of the inevitable STOPP press handout:
In those two latest years for which figures are to hand, Purley High maintained what STOPP's report called "a remarkable consistency", despite a continuing steady decline in the overall level of recorded c.p. for all Croydon secondary schools:
Most interestingly, the caning of sixth-formers -- which had stopped in 1979/80 - was resumed at Purley High in 1980-2. In 1980/1 three sixth-form boys were caned -- one for truancy, one for vandalism and one for 'breach of school rules'. The following year, 1981/2, there was just one sixth-form caning -- for 'assault on others'. I wonder if history will prove him to have been one of the last sixth-formers ever to be caned in Britain? Certainly there can have been very few UK state schools that officially whacked 17-year-olds as recently as the 1980s.
As to the other forms at Purley High: in 1980/1, 56 fourth-year boys shared 108 canings between them, while 42 fifth-formers received 55 canings. Put another way, 62% of the canings in that year (103 out of 166) were canings of boys caned on more than one occasion.
In 1981/2, the relative balance shifted a little towards the older boys: 58 fourth-formers were whacked (receiving 98 canings), while 47 fifth-formers shared 67 canings.
This conforms to quite a common pattern in school punishment book statistics: a relatively small proportion of pupils receive c.p., but many of those who do get it on a number of occasions in the year. STOPP always claimed that this shows that c.p. failed to deter those who got it from misbehaving again. But it seems to me that it simply shows that the majority of pupils were deterred from offending by news of other boys' whackings, while a minority of naughtier boys needed a second or third dose before the lesson was learned.
Purley High of course went on caning until national abolition for state schools in 1987. As recently as March 1986 the occasional fuss about it still blew up in the local press: 16-year-old David Capel was suspended for a week for refusing the cane following a pushing incident in assembly. STOPP launched its customary tirade, pointing out that there were still 84 canings recorded at Purley in school year 1984/85, out of a total by then of only 250 in Croydon as a whole. But Croydon education chairman Derek Loughborough said: "Parents like the atmosphere at Purley Boys and fully support the short-sharp reaction to undesirable bullying that might go on" ("Mum lashes school in row over pupil caning", Croydon Comet, 21 March 1986; "Mother blasts caning school", Croydon Post, 19 March 1986).
STOPP produced three reports containing the punishment book statistics for Croydon (among others) for 1976-82, entitled "How Often is Rarely? (1979), " A Quarter of a Million Beatings" (1981), and "Once Every 19 Seconds" (1983