Laindon Schools

Crime and Punishment: Promotion and Demotion

By Alan Davies

Crime and Punishment. What could this possibly encompass in Langdon Hills Primary and Laindon High Road schools during the war years and shortly thereafter? Crimes at Langdon Hills took the form of talking in class, using a pea shooter (the pea shooter cut from St Ann's lace with hawthorne buds as bullets), flicking bits of ink wetted blotting paper with the aid of a ruler at the girl you currently fancied, laughing or talking during the prayer that began and ended each day's classes and no doubt other similar dastardly crimes which memory has mislaid.

Punishment in infants and the lower classes was to be made to stand outside the class door in the corridor for the remainder of the period and pray that Mr Hall,  the headmaster, did not walk by. Then you were in trouble. Particularly heinous crimes saw you ordered to Mr Hall's office under your own steam to explain to him personally the enormity of your transgression. By age ten or eleven the punishment was caning. I remember one such episode when, for some crime whose details I have forgotten, I was made to stand in front of the class while our teacher, Mr Taylor, administered three whacks with a wooden ruler on the back of my bare legs. That hurt! It hurt so much that I anticipated the third stroke and bent my legs thinking that would soften the blow. Mr Taylor deemed bending legs in anticipation to be unsporting and unmanly. He decreed an extra whack! This is not to say that caning was frequent or that the teachers were sadistic. Not at all. There were some first class teachers there. (Except for Miss O'Brien who terrorised the entire student body.) It was simply a different age. Today liberal do-gooders would be up in arms demanding the sacking of any teacher who laid a hand on dear little Johnny. Why the little pet might be emotionally scarred for life. It did not do us a speck of harm and I have never felt the need to bore a psychiatrist because I got whacked with a ruler at school. Quite the reverse. I made sure that I never mentioned the caning at home otherwise I would get a second dose from my father.

When we got to Laindon High Road the crimes were not that much different. However, I cannot remember any caning. Perhaps we were deemed too old for that. Punishment seemed to be a piece of chalk thrown at your head by the teacher (some teachers were amazingly accurate) or made to stay in during break or after school to write an essay on some assigned subject. I would have preferred the cane I think.

The way promotion and demotion were handled during this period seems a little alien to us today. There was little time for personal decisions or a democratic choice. As the time for the eleven plus exam approached at Langdon Hills there was no notification to the class, no discussion of the better future opportunities it might offer, no questioning of who would wish to sit the exam. Nothing! It was as if the eleven plus never existed. Publicly at least. It was not until September when the two best students never arrived to start a new life at Laindon High Road with the rest of us that we were told they had gone to Grays Palmers. I can only guess that the teachers decided that only these two students were capable of passing the exam and simply did not ask anyone else. Or, was Langdon Hills given a quota along with all the other schools in the area, and the teachers decided who was best suited to fill their quota. Who knows? It is conjecture on my part.

A similar situation existed at Laindon High Road. There were five classes, A through E. I was put in the A class. How? Who determined I belonged in A and not D? After all there was no magic hat as in the Harry Potter books to mandate where you went. There was no placement exam. We were simply told which class we were to be in. The only explanation which makes any sense is that the primary schools recommended where we should be assigned and that Laindon High Road accepted those recommendations. At least for the first year. As the year progressed it must have become increasingly apparent that two of the students in our class could not keep up. At the beginning of the second year we discovered they were no longer part of our class. They had been demoted to the B class. No one was promoted to take their place. Again, today liberals would no doubt be wringing their hands and emotionally decrying the psychological trauma visited on these two individuals who would carry this scar of rejection and unworthiness throughout their entire life. Nonsense! Not everyone is the same and far better to have a student successful and confident in the B level than unable to keep up and miserable in the A level.

A similar situation existed at the close of our second year at Laindon High Road. A large proportion of our class expressed an ambition to go on to Chelmsford Tech. There was no exam to go to the Tech. Instead there was an interview with Mr Palmer, the head master at the Tech. Potential students from all over south east Essex were there. The interview with Mr Palmer took all of about three minutes. How could it be otherwise? He had about a hundred and fifty students to interview in one afternoon. I remember him asking me which authors I liked to read. I am sure he would have liked to hear me say Jane Austen and Charles Dickens but had to be satisfied with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Percy F Westerman. To my knowledge everyone there for an interview was accepted at the Tech. So how did this work? Were there none who were rejected?

To this day I do not know. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that Chelmsford Tech, perhaps with a quota for each school, accepted the recommendation of Laindon High Road and the other schools in the area.

So much for crime, punishment, promotion and demotion in a very innocent school age.

This page was added by Alan Davies on 26/07/2014.
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In response to Richard Haines' comment re not knowing how six of the best must have felt: it hurt, big time! I think it was in the third year that, as a result of my rebellious attitude, I was in receipt of this punishment almost every day. Woodward would try to make light of what he was about to inflict upon one by telling you to bend over and face the open fireplace so that when the cane connected with your backside, if you jumped you would go up the chimney! Upon leaving his room you would pass in the corridor other "criminals" awaiting their turn and as a show of bravado you would laugh out loud, it was this or cry and I sure as Hell wouldn't allow myself to lose face this way! Wasn't I a hero?

On only one occasion, for reasons unknown, I was given my six of the best by the Deputy Headmaster, Mr Cluff. Now this was a sadistic thrashing that I'm certain only one of us enjoyed and only one of us remembered forever. To this day I don't feel that this did me any lasting harm nor did it do much good. So Richard, don't regret missing out on six of the best, they weren't that good nor were they fun. "Six of the Best" what a stupid expression, who coined that phrase and best of what? Don Joy (Smith)

By Donald Joy
On 08/08/2015

Hi.  I remember Mr Lane giving me the slipper, it was about size 13, for putting drawing pins on his chair.

By Keith Nock
On 28/07/2014

An interesting topic here on crime and punishment. In the first year at LHR I was sat with a fellow ex-Laindon Park schoolboy. This was not good for me because he was always chattering and otherwise messing around. With children sitting so close to each other, if you were with such a person you would get 50% of the blame. Thus Mr Rosen placed me in the defaulters book three times in the first term 1958. This had the effect of me being called to Mr J H J Woodward's office one morning in November 1958. The punishment was sharp and quick- one stroke of the cane, a biting, painful shock on a boy still in short trousers.

I never mentioned it at home. In fact the following two terms of the first year were happy and trouble free, due to me being moved away from the troublesome student. I pity any boy who had six of the best, I can't imagine how that must have felt. Happy Days guys.

By Richard Haines
On 27/07/2014
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