The following images might be of interest to some people - they certainly interested me when I photographed them a couple of weeks ago.
In Victoria, Australia, throughout most of the twentieth century two main regulations applied to the use of corporal punishment in state (also referred to as government) schools.
These regulations stated that the only form of corporal punishment permitted was the use of a strap administered on the palm of the hand.
And that only boys could be physically punished.
The use of any other implement besides the strap was forbidden, as was the physical punishment of girls.
These rules applied from 1900 to early 1983.
It is accepted that these rules were not always followed perfectly. Other instruments, most commonly rulers were used on occasion, as was the human hand, and girls were sometimes physically punished. Provided parents made no complaint a teacher really didn't need to worry about these violations of regulations - but if a complaint was made, the teacher was generally fined as long as their violation was not too egregious.
The strap had been deliberately introduced in the 1870s to replace the cane on the principle that 'the old Scottish tawse was most humane means ever used in school government'. When Victoria introduced free, compulsory, and secular education in 1872, many people involved had pushed for the abolition of corporal punishment. They had failed largely because the colonies secondary schools, which were all independent denominational schools (they would retain their total monopoly over secondary schooling until 1905, and it wouldn't be completely broken until after World War II) insisted corporal punishment exist in government primary schools if the colonial government wanted them to take scholarship boys from those schools. The introduction of the tawse or strap in place of the cane was the compromise agreed to, and it use only on boys, and by 1900, the use of the cane was absolutely forbidden in government schools, as was the corporal punishment of girls.
Basically the strap was meant to be used, but other unofficial means were tolerated if they were considered less severe than the strap. The cane was not to be tolerated however. Girls were not meant to be physically punished at all, but unless parents complained it was unlikely a teacher would get into any trouble.
However, there is some evidence in the historical record - and particularly in peoples published accounts of their own schooldays - that at some schools, these rules were both quite routinely ignored. The cane was used, and girls were punished reasonably regularly.
These accounts generally concern the schools that were regarded as central schools, which also tended to be the older schools, and generally the schools with the best reputations. Until the introduction of universal secondary education after the Second World War, the only way most working class children could get a proper secondary education was to win a scholarship to a private secondary school, and a fairly significant number of parents wanted their children to have that chance. These parents tended to enrol their children in the primary school in their area with the highest academic standards. And in at least some cases, they tended to accept the schools methods reasonably unquestioningly. And if parents didn't complain, teachers could get away with a lot. And the Department hardly wanted to criticise its best performing schools - so regulations were not always followed.
One school in particular, located quite near me, is one of those where I have heard quite a number of accounts of both the cane being used in its classrooms (the strap was used as well), and of girls being punished as well. The accounts I have heard of date from around 1904 to around 1961. I've been unsure how much credence to give them - and I'm still unsure. But I've recently seen something to make me take them quite seriously, and I anticipate having the chance to look at this in more detail.
This school has preserved a great deal of its history and a great many of its artifacts. It has a rudimentary museum and it displays it artifacts in a rather haphazard fashion. Because of my interest in school history, a friend of mine who is a teacher at the school has asked me if I'd been willing to help them put this all in order. I will have access to the artifacts and to the schools records.
I've been up there recently for a quick look and one of their displays of historical artifacts caught my eye. Two photos can be seen below.
(I have mosaiced part of these images to avoid the identification of the school. I will reveal it in the future, but for the moment, I'd like to keep it under wraps if I can possibly manage it until I can document everything properly and work out what other evidence exists).
The exhibit certainly isn't conclusive, but it does draw material from the schools museum and archives, and certainly lends at least some support to the idea that a cane was used in the school. And if that can be substantiated, I may
be able to substantiate some of the other claims. Apparently they do have at least some of the schools punishment books stored - although I wonder if punishments that violated regulations would have been recorded.