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Strict Tutorial

by Andrew Robertson

My guardian is never satisfied with me. So, she despatched me once more to the Muir Reform Academy, this time to the Strict Tutorial in the hope that I may be improved in my manners and compliance with her wishes.

The Headmistress, Miss Prim, and the dreaded Matron greeted each pupil in turn as they arrived at their individually scheduled time on the evening before the commencement of the school term. For this term, there were only two boys, Paul and myself. All the rest were girls. Us boys were outnumbered. Amongst the girls, there was the bubbly Jane Molyneux and the not-so-shy-and-retiring Shelley Cocker as well as the quite tall Sarah-Jane Thornton.

The Matron sternly directed us to our dormitory rooms. Paul and me were bundled up to the attic dorm. 'Plenty of fresh air will be good for you two scamps', she said with a glint in her eye. We unpacked our bags and laid out our school regulation kit on our beds as required by the School Rules for Matron's inspection. As we did so, we could hear the girls' chatter and giggles from their dormitory downstairs. Matron entered our dorm, carrying a kit checklist for both of us in her hand. We had all the required items, but then Matron asked us each the fatal question: 'Have you got name tags on all your school uniform clothes?' With small, trembling voices the two of us had to admit we had forgotten to mark our kit as required. The Matron ominously made marks in red ink on our checklists. She then told us these omissions would be reported to the Headmistress and we could expect her to take an exceedingly poor view of this matter.

Matron then asked me why my right arm was heavily bandaged and in a sling. I handed her my medical certification from my local bonesetter and she left the room to read and check it. Soon she returned and with something more than a frown on her face, said, 'Andrew Robertson! I believe this so-called certificate to be a FORGERY! It is littered with the grossest misspellings. You have a choice. Either you own up now or face the Headmistress wearing that sling. I cannot imagine what her reaction will be if she sees it!' In vain I tried to convince Matron that my bonesetter was a true, kindly gentleman of the countryside and that my disabled state was genuine but she wouldn't have any of this. Then I made an irretrievable mistake. My nose twitched and I unwittingly scratched it with my right hand, forgetting that arm was supposed to be immovable in the sling. On seeing this, the expression on Matron's face alone sealed my fate before she even spoke.

I was in deep trouble with the Headmistress at her interview soon afterwards. I was spanked, strapped, tawsed and caned for the forged medical certificate. Both Paul and me were sentenced to a bare bottom slippering each night of the school term with a stroke for each omitted kit tag. Poor Paul would have to endure 23 strokes and me only 21 each night at bedtime.

An adult school boy receiving the tawse

On top of this, the Headmistress told me I was already on Defaulters the following evening to answer for the highly unfavourable letter of referral from that catty Head Girl of my regular school. I wasn't alone. All the other pupils had likewise been sent to the Muir Reform Academy for unsatisfactory behaviour and the two hours before dinner that evening was taken up with their bottoms being tanned for their misdemeanours.

Coming back from cross-country

The curriculum included cross country!

The school curriculum included a really tough Mathematics course, Latin, History, Art, Biology, and to our collective dismay - PE! It was freezing cold outside and the weather forecast offered no respite for the whole term. It was made clear to us that failure to pass any exam would be rewarded by six of the best of the cane.

The first school day commenced the next morning with assembly and already some pupils had to atone at the rate of six strokes of the cane for every three demerits incurred since they arrived. Lessons commenced and it was obvious we were expected to cope with a challenging set of subjects. After the mid-morning break, there was a Latin lesson followed by the nefarious PE. We all had to change into our PE kit and tracksuits and were sent on a closely supervised cross-country run. The course at one point, passed by a certain type of hospitable establishment and we joked amongst ourselves how a certain absent pupil of the Academy might have reached this resting place, in a state of utter exhaustion and wouldn't have proceeded any further! But one girl was foolish enough to thumb her nose at the Headmistress and was punished by being made to run four times continuously around the cross-country course. She was hot, bothered and well worn out by the time she finished.

The lessons were in the true strict tutorial style - quite demanding on our time and attention thereby keeping thoughts of mischief making at bay for the most of the day. Despite that, Shelley Cocker seemed to have a strange magnetic attraction for demerits, gaining more of them than the combined total of demerits incurred by the other pupils. And, of course, she had to bend over the horse for six strokes of the cane more often than the rest of us for our petty offences. I didn't escape the rigours of the disciplinary regime either. One morning, the Matron discovered, what she termed 'graffiti', a cartoon lampooning a certain fish pond ownership not far away from the school, but to which exception was taken with the result yours truly was plonked on Defaulters and given twelve strokes each of the tawse, martinet and the cane. Paul too seemed a bit accident-prone. He regularly got into trouble for the silliest of reasons but was treated no differently when prostrated, with his short trousers down around his knees, across the horse.

The girls' dormitory As each day of the term went by we became more absorbed by our lessons and the school routine from the time we got up in the early morning until we went wearily to bed again at 10.30 pm. I, and some of the others, developed the feeling we had genuinely returned to school again. Once more, I, a sixteen year old boy, still in short trousers, long socks and school blazer, had to struggle anew with difficult maths lessons, knowing that I shall have a hard time when it came to sit my end-of-term examinations. This feeling seemed so natural to me, and to the others, that I began to wish that this strict regime school might continue for yet another week. I knew I would have enjoyed that immensely. One or two of my fellow pupils later confirmed they had the same desire.

The final day started with an unexpected event. We pupils were in the school common room, feverishly doing our revision for our impending exams later that day. Suddenly, a piercing whistle was blown, signifying a fire alarm, and we all duly left our things where they were and filed dutifully out of the school main door and assembled on the patio outside. The Matron checked our names off against the school roll as we came out. But soon her expression became grim. Someone hadn't followed the fire drill as instructed and had not yet left the school building. Trouble began to brew. The Headmistress re-entered the school premises and found Susan the maid still in the kitchen. "What's up?" asked Susan. She was informed very soon indeed at both ends, so to speak. I don't know which was worse for her; the ringing in her ears from the resultant massive telling-off or the twelve strokes of the cane she received from a furious Matron.

The exams took place and some of us had various results. I did well at history, quite well at Latin and biology but failed miserably at maths. It was no use pleading the maths was 'too hard'. I had to take my punishment all the same. Some of the others had similar kind of results. That night we had the traditional end-of-term dinner hosted by Sir Guy, the School Governor. After that we relaxed, but no too much, for the school rules continued to apply for any misdemeanours, and we played many entertaining party games until bedtime. It was quite a lively party and good fun. All too soon the morning came and we had to take leave of each other before setting off for home until the next time.

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