|The recent Nottingham High School 500 celebrations have been an exciting and busy time for everyone connected with the school. How nice it has been to see so many Old Nottinghamians visit – and not just to attend the marked events and occasions. To my delight, I met Tony Eltringham, School Captain from 1964-1965. Tony had read a previous blog post on the Prefects’ Discipline Room and was keen to share his knowledge of the demise of corporal punishment. Do read his account below.|
These notes are written so they can be read in conjunction with the Prefects’ book for the years 1964 -1965 with abbreviations explained where necessary.
The CP (Corpus Praefectorum) for 1964/65 was headed by G A (Tony) Eltringham , A B (Tony) Palfreman and Gordon B Mitchell who had all been prefects in the year 1963/64 under Glyn M Owens, David C Haywood and David F Fox.
There is no record in the book of the discussions that preceded the decision around corporal punishment in February 1965.
From the beginning of the academic year 1964/65, there was an occasional instance where a prefect declined to carry out the decision of the Prefects’ Court and deliver a stroke of a cane to an offender. (This could only be administered at least 24 hours after the decision was made. This time was allowed for appeal which was rarely used.) The practice was to assign the task to the Prefects for one beat in an order that remained constant and a list was kept to check on the maintenance of the rotation.
Before the end of the autumn term, it was clear that there were some people who would consistently refuse to apply punishment with a cane. This was accepted and there were no formal meetings to discuss the situation since the personal choice was accepted. At the beginning of January 1965, the composition of the CP changed slightly with more second year sixth prefects being added to the CP and the number of prefects unwilling to use the cane increased by one or two.
The CP leadership trio canvassed prefects’ feelings informally and arrived at the conclusion that the time had come to propose a solution of walking away from the practice of caning. A meeting of the CP was held and the proposal was outlined and without a vote the decision was made to terminate the practice. Two members of staff, including Dr A W Thomas (the Senior Master) were consulted and no adverse comments were received.
The Prefects’ Book has the following comment signed off by Tony Palfreman, the Senior Presiding Prefect of the court on 12th February:
“The following will go down in history as being the last offenders to be beaten by the Corpus (each received 1 beat).” Five pupils (all from the U5th) had each received the one beat and I have chosen to leave their names out but they are given in the book .
Within 24 hours, Tony Eltringham delivered two canes to the Headmaster (HA or higher authority) whose signature was at the beginning of the Prefects’ Book confirming the rules under which the CP would operate the discipline for the school. The decision to hand back the canes was not justified with any other words than our unwillingness to continue the practice. There was certainly no emotional or legal discussion of the principles involved. The Headmaster (K R Imeson) accepted the canes without comment other than “Thank you”.
The actions of that day were not publicised around the school and the Headmaster never made any comments to the CP (and we did not ask) as to whether this would have any influence on his policy on corporal punishment.
When the three of us made the decision to go forward with proposing the action to the other Prefects, we did not view it as a particularly significant event – rather a move to provide a uniform view of discipline across the CP.
With the benefit of hindsight (including a quotation attributed to HA), it turned out to be more meaningful than ever we judged it would be.
A big thank you to Tony for this account! It would be really good to hear more from ONs. For anyone who’d like to read John Knifton’s book, Lauda Finem: The History of Nottingham High School, its available on Kindle from Amazon. John has also put together a book of reflections from staff and students commemorating the 500 Anniversary celebrations, 500 Happy Returns: Nottingham High School’s Birthday.