Saturday, 8 November 2008

Terror of the schools

It was intriguing to learn that in the most recent year for which figures are available, 1540 children under five were excluded from English schools for physical or verbal violence.

Where do they get the capacity to be that threatening at that age?

It took me until I was at least ten before I could become a really sustained irritation to my teachers. From that age, however, I did carve myself something of a niche as the most disruptive pupil in my school. It destroyed my hopes – never bright – of a sporting career, as for two years I missed every Wednesday afternoon sports session in punishment for some misdemeanour or other. The process culminated in the headmaster telling me one Wednesday morning, ‘David, you are the only child on detention this week out of 500 and I’m not going to keep a teacher back just for you. So instead I’m going to cane you.’

I’m as keen an opponent of corporal punishment as the next liberal, but I have to admit that from a purely personal point of view I preferred it to the alternative: six strokes of the cane caused little pain and were over in seconds. Detention took hours and was real punishment. Not sufficiently unpleasant to stop me cheeking my teachers, but desperately tedious all the same.

The only problem with being spared detention is that I didn’t have any sports kit with me, seeing as I hadn’t needed any for such a long time. Or did I actually own any at all? My parents could safely have avoided the expense.

My real fear of teachers came once I was a parent. When my elder son came home from his second week at school, he was looking frightened.

‘What is it? What’s worrying you?’ we asked him.

Tearfully, he explained ‘my teacher says I have to take off all my clothes to have a pee.’

Our blood ran cold. This was in the middle of one of the periodic scares about child sexual abuse. They were making our son take off all his clothes to have a pee? What was going on?

It was Friday evening so there was nothing we could do. We tried to enjoy the weekend but it wasn’t easy with that shadow hovering over us. But eventually Monday morning came and I confronted the teacher. She looked at me as though I was slightly pitiable if not crazy.

‘We told him that he’d have to change for P.E.’

Unspoken but unmistakeable was the reproach ‘just what were you about to accuse me of?’ Given what had been going through my mind over the weekend, that wasn’t a subject I wanted to discuss with her.

Physical Education! She was talking about changing for games. It seems that sports kit was becoming an issue in my life again. A ghost from my past had come to haunt my weekend.

Perhaps it was long-delayed retribution for having caused my own teachers so much pain. Karma, basically.

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

Yeah, I remember that. Having to change for P.E. in front of everybody used to give me nightmares.