It’s leavers’ assembly tomorrow. The Year 11 students have completed their five years at the school and move on to new things in September. Perhaps some will feel free of the rules imposed by the school, perhaps others will realise that the rules were considerably lighter than those to be found in many institutions.
It is forty-two years since I left school, it was a school there were so many rules that it was impossible to know them all. The discipline ran from merely strict to the bizarrely absurd.
Our school uniform was black blazer, trousers and shoes, grey socks and grey shirt with a green and grey tie. There was no variation allowed. Anyone returning at the beginning of term with anything that diverged from regulation wear had it confiscated and were issued with “house” items until the offending garments or footwear had been replaced. On Sundays, a different black blazer was worn; the grey shirt was replaced by a white one; and the green and grey tie was changed for one that was maroon. No-one had any idea why the idea of “Sunday best” included wearing a tie of a completely different colour.
Everything was done according to rules: there were parts of the school where black leather shoes were to be worn; parts where training shoes were to be worn; and parts where slippers to be worn. Everyone got up at a prescribed time, not before and not after. Everyone took meals together, at set times, eating at any other time was not possible.
Once a fortnight, there was a cross country run, even if there was snow on the ground. It doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider the fact that the school was in the middle of Dartmoor, a high and wild part of England.
Half the time, you didn’t know what the rules were until you had broken them. I once borrowed someone else’s football boots. When I admitted the boots had been lent to me, I was made to clean the gym for three days in a row as punishment.
The most stupid rule concerned changing the sheets on one’s bed. The sheets removed had to be folded into neat squares, before they were collected, bundled into a bag and thrown into washing machines. If the dirty sheets were not folded into squares of the specified dimension, some punishment would ensue.
The final term was a time to break as many rules as possible. Climbing out of windows; trespassing in staff quarters; going for walks at midnight; drinking cans of fizzy cider; playing Radio Luxembourg in our rooms; sometimes silliness for the sake of it. Subject to absurd strictures for so long, we became as absurd in our response.
The Year 11 students have been a model of maturity compared with my memories of my final days at school.