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#1 Nov 22, 2017 5:32 pm

New Historian
Active

The UK secondary school factory system

In the sixties, the main objective of Britain’s secondary school system was to keep children occupied from nine to four – and try to knock some learning into their thick skulls in the process. The headmistress of St. Thomas’ was Mother Bon Secours, otherwise known as Bongo. She, like all the nuns, would walk around with a long rubber strap ingeniously concealed in the folds of her habit, ready to dole out punishment for the slightest infraction: two, four or six of the best. Bongo, like most of the nuns, was Irish, and would think nothing of calling out to me:

“Hey you, Blacky, come here!”

The most feared teacher in St. Thomas’ was Mr. Connelly, a big, angry ex-rugby player who took out his life’s many frustrations on the children in his charge. You did not cross Connelly lightly. Mind you, sometimes you didn’t even have to cross him, to cross him. In one infamous episode, Connelly on playground duty at lunchtime. At the end of lunch hour he blew his whistle, meaning: get into your lines. Over a hundred boys abandoned their games of football, cricket or British bulldog, gathered up their jackets and slowly headed for their form lines. Too slowly, apparently. Connelly grew impatient.

So he blew the whistle again, meaning: freeze! Connelly then barked out:

“All of you not in lines, over here!”

About fifty of us shuffled across to form a new line, as Connelly mumbled to himself.

“I’m tired a tellin’ yeh, when I blow the feckin’ whistle, you move! Well you gonna learn today, that’s fer sure!”

The rest of the boys trooped off to their respective classes, while we miscreants followed Connelly to the staff room. We were abuzz with curiosity; what’s he gonna do? He can’t beat all of us, can he? But that’s exactly what he did. Connelly came with his leather strap and gave us each six of the best, to all fifty of us: three hundred strokes in total; the last delivered with exactly the same venom as the first.

After six of Connelly’s lashes we doubled up in excruciating agony; none of us could hold a pen all afternoon. Our form teachers were bemused when we came through the door, holding back the tears: what’s gotten into Connelly this time? That evening at dinner, I still couldn’t hold my knife and fork properly, and told Dad what had happened. He was livid, and marched up to the school the next day and made a huge fuss with the headmaster. As a teacher himself he castigated the school for its shocking overuse of the strap. Not that it did any good – probably made Connelly even more vicious.

Then there was our history teacher, Miss Duffy: a highly-strung spinster and certified lunatic. One day in second form at St Thomas’, the class clown and general hard-nut John “Polly” Parrot was giving Miss Duffy his usual lip. She decided to give him the strap. He held out his hands, she flailed away; which was no more than a gnat on an elephant. Feeble Miss Duffy hadn’t the strength to seriously hurt the strap-happy Polly Parrot who just stood there, sneering. This enraged Miss Duffy, who decided to give him six more.

Whoa, this was going into uncharted territory; the most straps we had ever gotten was “six of the best”. Parrot refused. Miss Duffy flew into a rage.

“Put-your-hand-out …. NOW!!”

Nope, again Parrot refused. Miss Duffy drew back the strap and WHACK! She slapped him across the face, sending him reeling backwards over the desk. She climbed over the table to get at him, flailing away and screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Bundle!!” Someone shouted the universal fight signal, and the whole classroom gathered round, watching Miss Duffy go mad and Polly screaming:

“Get this f*cking mad woman off me, help!!”

Teachers from nearby classrooms came rushing in, closely followed by their students; everybody craning to see what was going on. Eventually, the teachers managed to subdue mad Miss Duffy, panting and screaming, foaming at the mouth. The ambulance took her away. She did six months in Shenley Mental Hospital and came back the next term - cured.

Yeah right.

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#2 Nov 22, 2017 6:58 pm

Calypso
Active

Re: The UK secondary school factory system

New Historian wrote:

In the sixties, the main objective of Britain’s secondary school system was to keep children occupied from nine to four – and try to knock some learning into their thick skulls in the process. The headmistress of St. Thomas’ was Mother Bon Secours, otherwise known as Bongo. She, like all the nuns, would walk around with a long rubber strap ingeniously concealed in the folds of her habit, ready to dole out punishment for the slightest infraction: two, four or six of the best. Bongo, like most of the nuns, was Irish, and would think nothing of calling out to me:

“Hey you, Blacky, come here!”

The most feared teacher in St. Thomas’ was Mr. Connelly, a big, angry ex-rugby player who took out his life’s many frustrations on the children in his charge. You did not cross Connelly lightly. Mind you, sometimes you didn’t even have to cross him, to cross him. In one infamous episode, Connelly on playground duty at lunchtime. At the end of lunch hour he blew his whistle, meaning: get into your lines. Over a hundred boys abandoned their games of football, cricket or British bulldog, gathered up their jackets and slowly headed for their form lines. Too slowly, apparently. Connelly grew impatient.

So he blew the whistle again, meaning: freeze! Connelly then barked out:

“All of you not in lines, over here!”

About fifty of us shuffled across to form a new line, as Connelly mumbled to himself.

“I’m tired a tellin’ yeh, when I blow the feckin’ whistle, you move! Well you gonna learn today, that’s fer sure!”

The rest of the boys trooped off to their respective classes, while we miscreants followed Connelly to the staff room. We were abuzz with curiosity; what’s he gonna do? He can’t beat all of us, can he? But that’s exactly what he did. Connelly came with his leather strap and gave us each six of the best, to all fifty of us: three hundred strokes in total; the last delivered with exactly the same venom as the first.

After six of Connelly’s lashes we doubled up in excruciating agony; none of us could hold a pen all afternoon. Our form teachers were bemused when we came through the door, holding back the tears: what’s gotten into Connelly this time? That evening at dinner, I still couldn’t hold my knife and fork properly, and told Dad what had happened. He was livid, and marched up to the school the next day and made a huge fuss with the headmaster. As a teacher himself he castigated the school for its shocking overuse of the strap. Not that it did any good – probably made Connelly even more vicious.

Then there was our history teacher, Miss Duffy: a highly-strung spinster and certified lunatic. One day in second form at St Thomas’, the class clown and general hard-nut John “Polly” Parrot was giving Miss Duffy his usual lip. She decided to give him the strap. He held out his hands, she flailed away; which was no more than a gnat on an elephant. Feeble Miss Duffy hadn’t the strength to seriously hurt the strap-happy Polly Parrot who just stood there, sneering. This enraged Miss Duffy, who decided to give him six more.

Whoa, this was going into uncharted territory; the most straps we had ever gotten was “six of the best”. Parrot refused. Miss Duffy flew into a rage.

“Put-your-hand-out …. NOW!!”

Nope, again Parrot refused. Miss Duffy drew back the strap and WHACK! She slapped him across the face, sending him reeling backwards over the desk. She climbed over the table to get at him, flailing away and screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Bundle!!” Someone shouted the universal fight signal, and the whole classroom gathered round, watching Miss Duffy go mad and Polly screaming:

“Get this f*cking mad woman off me, help!!”

Teachers from nearby classrooms came rushing in, closely followed by their students; everybody craning to see what was going on. Eventually, the teachers managed to subdue mad Miss Duffy, panting and screaming, foaming at the mouth. The ambulance took her away. She did six months in Shenley Mental Hospital and came back the next term - cured.

Yeah right.

Sounds like a scent from "To Sir with Love!

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#3 Nov 22, 2017 6:59 pm

Expat
Active

Re: The UK secondary school factory system

From where I seem to remember you lived this is not St Thomas's Chelsea right?

As you can tell I was one of the Secondary Moderns great failures.

I avoided being caned by "Bomber" Mead by a gnats cock when fortunately my co bandsmen who had decided to fall through a bloody great plate glass window told him I was not involved. I did get caned at one point nearly every English lesson.. Funnily enough I have no resentment... I earned it. We had a psycho games master who gave loads of kids the slipper... luckily not me.

And better yet no one figured out who broke one of the big round glass shades playing cricket in the classroom during break.... or who fused all the power points in the New Block.... One up for expat... smile

Regardless of some of the abuses I think it was far better when there was corporal punishment. Even if the actual punishment did nothing, it set in ones mind cause and effect.

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#4 Nov 22, 2017 7:32 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: The UK secondary school factory system

Chelsea? Chelsea's for toffs mate. We all were all victims of the system, but like you I harbour no grudges. Yeah some of the beatings were OTT but like you say: it sure did focus your mind on the repercussions of breaking the rules!

Any attempts at instilling the thirst for knowledge were a complete joke; career’s day consisted of your disinterested house master talking down to you:

“Right, what do you want to be when you grow up? Speak up, boy! You want to be a lawyer? Don’t be stupid boy, you can’t be a lawyer! Let’s see, woodwork, an excellent trade. That’s it then: you’ll leave school at 15 and enter a woodworking apprenticeship scheme – okay? Good. Next!”

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#5 Nov 23, 2017 7:41 pm

Expat
Active

Re: The UK secondary school factory system

New Historian wrote:

Chelsea? Chelsea's for toffs mate. We all were all victims of the system, but like you I harbour no grudges. Yeah some of the beatings were OTT but like you say: it sure did focus your mind on the repercussions of breaking the rules!

Any attempts at instilling the thirst for knowledge were a complete joke; career’s day consisted of your disinterested house master talking down to you:

“Right, what do you want to be when you grow up? Speak up, boy! You want to be a lawyer? Don’t be stupid boy, you can’t be a lawyer! Let’s see, woodwork, an excellent trade. That’s it then: you’ll leave school at 15 and enter a woodworking apprenticeship scheme – okay? Good. Next!”

You got to see a careers master.... lucky you!!!

Nah, Chelsea is a place where the Toffs in Fulham can find car parking spaces.

Actually late 70's my then Trini Partner had her girls going to St Thomas More just off Sloane Square. We woz in a Caaancel Estate in Fullhaam at the time innit. We woz upwardly mobile... LoL.

Just prompted me to check youtubsky as they were part of the Yvonne Keely and Scott Fitzgerald "If I had Words" as per:-

The Youngest is in the middle in the front, and the older is third row back on the left. Just having a nostalgic moment. Loved those girls.

As you can see, by that time there were quite a few Black faces at that school. Continuing the theme I looked at a ToTP's recording, and they weren't in that... sad  I am half wondering if they weren't using stage kids at that point rather than regular school children.

Last edited by Expat (Nov 23, 2017 8:12 pm)

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#6 Nov 24, 2017 6:14 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: The UK secondary school factory system

Lover's Rock, boy England did love that reggae sub-genre! What I like about London is that you find council estates all over the city, in so-called posh areas as well as in depressed areas. Those flats along the Embankment have views to die for!

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