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Grammar schools, mid 20th century


Discipline at a girls' grammar school in 1950s Britain

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Rules, regulations and discipline did exist at girls' grammar schools in 1950s Britain, but obeying the rules and regulations became second nature for most pupils and the discipline was applied with a light touch. This page elaborates, There is a separate page on school discipline in previous years, and it includes how it was worse for boys than girls even as late as the mid-20th Century.


By the webmaster, based on personal recollections from Copthall School and contributions from former students from later years of the mid-20th Century

Rules and regulations

Below is a list of the significant rules as I remember them. However because it was second nature for most pupils to obey them and because, as far as I know, they were never written down, I may be omitting some:

There was also pressure rather than rules. All girls, actually their parents, were expected to contribute to various charities.

There may have been rules about gross misdemeanours, like perpetual bad behaviour, truant or failure to do homework, but they were unknown to almost all of us. We were just told to do certain things and we did them.

In practice it was second nature to obey these rules. Most of us enjoyed school; we had all passed the scholarship that became the 11-plus exam to the top school in the area and were being taught by able teachers who cared about their subjects and us. It didn't occur to us to be naughty. I realise that I was fortunate. If it was different for you, please contact me.


Good behaviour was rewarded with what was called a 'deportment' badge. It was said to be for more than standing and sitting upright, but we received absolutely no information at all on what else it was for or how to go about developing it. That always struck me as a shame, because I always hoped I would get a deportment badge - but I never did.

On reflection in later life, I feel that deportment badges went to girls who behaved as if they were trained by public schools, that is who came from what my mother would have called 'better class families' - but try as I did, I couldn't work this out at the time.

There were no prizes for progress or achievement as far as I remember. Progress and achievement were taken for granted this school.


Punishments were rare as there was little need for them.

The significant punishment was a detention. It was not given lightly. I got one once for touching - lightly touching, not hitting or scraping - a teacher's car which had recently been re-sprayed, and I was terribly upset and ashamed about it. It went on my report and I told my parents that it had been a class detention. It involved sitting in a classroom for half an hour after school with a teacher invigilating. I don't think any particular work was set. No-one from the school contacted parents to explain that a girl would be late home. 'Health and Safety' was not an issue then.

Anyone who had three detentions in one term was called up onto the stage during assembly, to be named and shamed. That never happened to me, and I don't think it happened to anyone in my class throughout my time at the school. Those who were called up always seemed to me to be in the lowest stream and to be more interested in make-up and boys than the girls in the other streams. Not that we were not interested in make-up and boys, but, for us, they had their place which was out of school.

Prefects could give lines, but I know very little about this as I was never given any.

What it was like to be given lines at school

I was given a hundred lines once or twice. Writing something a hundred times was very time consuming and something one chose not to repeat too often!

Sally Lawson
(formerly Sally Porte)

If you were at Copthall around this time, you will probably like the pages on life in the 1940s and 50s - see the menu on the home page. Information and photos are always welcome.

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