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Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey

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School 824 : Memories, Corporal Punishment


I'm not sure what the Education Department's policy was at the time, but I can't recall any corporal punishment being inflicted by teachers, although I think perhaps the headmaster had the right in extreme cases.  [1]

Most punishment in classes was either of the type that tended to embarrass pupils in front of their peers, typically to be made to stand and face a corner for ten minutes, 100 lines of "I must not ... (make up your own mortal sin here) ... in class again", or possibly being kept-in after class (the latter was probably less used on the basis that a teacher also had to stay behind).

The other "crime" which I cannot remember bringing any actual punishment except perhaps a negative comment on the annual report card was copping regular entries in the "Late Book".  There was a school bell behind the northern wing which was rung at five minutes to nine as a warning to get a rattle on and again at nine to indicate "too late".  

It wasn't original, but one of the favourite ditties of the day was a parody from Walt Disney's Fantasia :

"Hi ho, Hi ho!

"It's off to school we go,

"We hear the bell and run like hell,

"Hi ho, Hi ho!

"It's off to school we go"

The memory is a bit hazy here, but I think most the kids walked to school. There was a marked crossing over Hotham Street, no "lolly-pop" men or ladies as in later years, just warning flags on posts either side which were probably put out and taken in by a teacher.  

Certainly there was no concept of Mum or Dad driving or even escorting children to school as there is today, and where the memory is lacking is that I can't recall anywhere for the storage of bicycles for those lucky enough to have one. Some families, of course, still did not have cars anyway.  [2]

Constant delinquency was a problem with a handful of pupils and I guess somewhere along the way parents would have involved in a mediation process, but the reality was that a few just didn't care as long as the kids weren't under their feet all day - remembering, of course, that this was an era when very, very few mothers worked full-time.

Again, I don't think corporal punishment was involved, but often those involved would slip behind in their schoolwork and be forced to repeat a year - hardly the ideal solution to a child not wanting to go to school in the first place!


[1]   This contrasts strongly with the junior Preston Technical School where strappings for misbehaviour were regular and two or three teachers sadistically prided themselves on devising ways on increasing pain levels - two common ways to soak the end in vinegar to make it especially hard or to slice the end into strips to give a "cat 'o nine tails" effect - both probably illegal.

[2]   Again compared to Preston Tech. where there was a caged-in section along the southern perimeter which housed bikes numbering in the hundreds - monitored by prefects and locked five minutes after classes commenced, not for security reasons as much as ensuring kids didn't disappear to places and mischief unknown at lunch time.  It was an offence to leave the school grounds (in contrast to 824 where shops in Plenty Road were regular lunchtime haunts - and to cross over the imaginary line across Zwar Park which marked the boundaries of the girl's Tech. in Cramer Street.  Prefects used to be assigned to patrol High Street to look out for anyone in school uniform.

Perhaps hardly relevant to the 1950s, or then again may some of the principles still applied ... in reviewing the history of the school, the following came to light, courtesy of The Argus, 7 August, 1880.  It is not clear why the Melbourne newspaper decided to print the article in relation to Gowerville/South Preston school as it appears to have something of a statement of policy of the Education Department and the Minister for Public Instruction rather than having any specific local relevance.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN STATE SCHOOLS.

At the usual monthly meeting of the Jika School Board of Advice held at the Gowerville state school on Wednesday last a circular letter was read to the following effect - The Hon the Minister of Public Instruction having had under his consideration the practical working of the regulations under which corporal punishment has heretofore been administered in state schools has thought proper that the existing circular on the subject be rescinded.  The Minister directs that in future corporal punishment shall only be inflicted in state schools on the following conditions - Corporal punishment may be administered by the head teacher and by such assistant teachers as he may authorise.  When more than one stroke is given, an entry shall be made in the "Register of Corporal Punishment" giving the date, the name and class and the age of the pupil, the nature of the offence and the extent of the punishment.  The names of the assistant  teachers authorised by the head teacher shall be entered by the head teacher on the first page of the register.  The head teacher will be held responsible for the nature and extent of the punishment inflicted in the state school under his charge. On no account is corporal punishment of any kind to be administered to girls.  The Minister deems it unnecessary to specify any particular instrument for the infliction of corporal punishment but is of opinion that the use of a strap is preferable to a cane or rod.

(I do not think either of the latter were allowed in the 50s, although at Preston Tech. a quick whack across the knuckles with a wooden ruler wasn't unknown).