At School No.11: Corporal Punishment

The Story of… The School Board and Unusual Punishment

A Birmingham School Cane.

In 1896 Floodgate Street School’s head teacher was forced to change how he administered corporal punishment.

A Mrs Timms called and complained that a blister had been raised on her son’s hand. Enquired into it, found that boy had been persistently troublesome + that Mr Allen gave him one stroke on hand with cane. The boy moving his hand away was caught on side of finger by top of cane. Case was reported. Mr Allen summoned to meet committee. [S68/2/1 16.10.1896]

This incident and the summoning of Mr Allen to the Board’s committee led to Mr Sturge of the Board visiting to instigate the rule of the Board on Corporal Punishment. A Report into this had been released in February of the same year, and highlighted School Regulation no.20:

“Corporal Punishment of any kind is absolutely prohibited in infants’ schools. In Boys’ and Girls’ schools the Head Teacher only is permitted to use corporal punishment, which must be confined to strokes with a cane. This form of punishment should only be used for cases of persistent disobedience, or serious offences, and every such case must at once be entered in the Punishment Book provided for the purpose. Any teacher, except the Head Teacher, using corporal punishment of any kind, or in any way, is liable to dismissal.” [SB/B 1/1/13 p.284]

The Head Teacher’s later logbook entry betrays his dissatisfaction with the detrimental outcome of this:

“Teachers are keeping the corporal punishment regulation very well but the order is not nearly so good.” [6.11.1896]

 Yet there were often complaints that in the end were not grounded in truth. The story of the boy in Class IVa demonstrates the Head Teacher having to step in and calm an angry mother:

Finding this impossible, he advised her to take what steps in the matter appeared to her to be best and as her attitude was disorderly, ordered her from the premises. [S68/2/1 24.2.1919]

There is no recorded end to this dispute, but the lack of a further entry suggests that the Head was satisfied that the injuries had been sustained outside of school, and not by the accused teacher.

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