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Quantock School Discipline

The Punishment Regime

There were a number of punishments one could receive - by far the most well-known was washing-up duty, where sentences varied from one day at the sinks for minor misdemeanours to up to far more lengthier periods for more serious crimes. Other punishments included potato peeling (more popularly known as "spuds") and wood chopping, a task usually performed in winter when vast quantities of firewood were required. There were also a number of lighter but no less irritating punishments, which included being made to stay behind for extra time after prep, and, in the case of fifth-formers, being made to attend supervised prep - a sentence often meted out to those who used the allocated study period to doss about in their rooms.

Of course, the most feared punishment was being asked to stand in front of the Head's flat for to receive the stick, with the maximum sentence being the infamous "six of the best". While both the head and Mr Warriner used a standard bamboo cane, others were more resourceful: Mr Burgess, for example, used a large plastic nautical ruler. However, from the end of the 1980s the use of corporal punishment was becoming increasingly unpopular with many bigwigs in the mainstream educational establishment; this of course meant that the discipline that maintained the system of order at the school was to become somewhat destabilised. I am sure that many would say that the "traditional" system of discipline worked - corporal punishment had always been administered in small doses, and pupils largely remained in check. It certainly did this writer no harm. I think.

Washing Up Duty

Although called a "duty", Washing-up detail was probably the most beautifully organised of all the punishment regimes at Quantock School. This punishment was done only in the mornings and evenings, lunch being omitted due to the inconvenient necessity of actually having to go to lessons. Washing-up duty could actually be broken down into three sub-duties, and in these sub-duties lay the genius behind the system:

Washing. This involved physically washing all the plates and bowls, and was considered by some as the worst of what were the three aspects of "washing-up duty". It was messy but at least repetitive enough to build up a rhythm. Persons finishing this "duty" would have "pruned" fingers and forearms until the next morning, resembling an old man from the elbows down, combined with a flagging appetite (one can still smell that rancid water, which would have made the most hard-nosed sewer-rat shirk!)

Cutlery. By far the most messy of the washing-up procedure, and involved washing all the knives, forks, spoons and cups. Dealing with the cutlery vied with Washing for the position of being the worst of the three, as no rhythm could be achieved due to the ever jabbing nature of the "higgledy-piggledy" organised silverware. This duty was also often the worst performed of the three sub-duties, and necessitated the careful selection of cutlery at meal times by diners. Inspecting one face of a knife could be fatal (literally) as the other face could still contain the better part of someone's beany breakfast. Typically the cutlery merchant would immerse his hands into the dining shrapnel and jiggle it about for a few moments and then rinse (if you were lucky). However, Quantock was ahead of it time in many ways as "cutlery duty" also involved the recycling of all of the plastic cups. The use of copious amounts of detergent (and lack of a proper rinsing procedure) often resulted in an even more vile tasting (and smelling) cup of tea, typified by an ale like frothy head, rarely seen on a cup of tea outside the confines of Quantock.

Rising, drying and stacking. By far the easiest of the three sub-duties, and, in Quantock parlance, an absolute doss. All you had to do was whisk the plates and bowls through clean hot water, place them in plastic racks, leave them to stand for a few minutes and then give them a quick wipe with a grotty tea-towel before stacking them. Experienced "rinsies" ensured that the water was piping hot so that after a few moments of racking the plates were dry under their own steam, negating the clothy time consuming step. A true master however could even insert a plate or bowl (into the hot tub) at a fine but critical angle, and then simply watch the crockery glide across the length and catch it at the other end of the sink (thus never needing to insert more than the tips of their fingers in the pristine water). Clearly this made a mockery of the already minimal effort required in performing this task, especially from the point of view of the "washer", who would have been up to his armpits in slop.

To truly appreciate all of the above comments on the washing-up "procedure", one should perhaps read them in conjunction with the guidelines outlined in the prefects' duties list. (This section was based on comments made by Mike Blake).


A sentence reserved for what appeared to be the perennial troublemakers, "Spuds" was just what the word suggested - peeling potatoes. This punishment usually took place on a Sunday morning, and could have been seen by some as an escape from the Head's classical Chapel readings.

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