Why did every British secondary school enforce these 37 ridiculously dumb school rules?

Excuse me but I feel Ofsted should know about this


When you think about it, secondary school was basically a series of violations against your human rights. Not being able to go to the toilet without a pass? Not okay. Being forced to walk on the left otherwise you’ll face severe punishment? Feels criminal. Having to ask the teacher for permission to drink from your own water bottle?? I’m calling Ofsted.

Secondary school rules were frankly barbaric, and looking back on them now most of them make little to no sense. Like, did all the teachers sit around a table one night and play a game of who can think of the stupidest school rule? 10 points for whoever came up with shirt sleeve order.

Whether your school was private or state, everyone had at least some of these ridiculously dumb school rules enforced upon them:

1. HAVING TO WEAR YOUR BLAZER AT ALL TIMES

It’s summer. It’s 30 degrees. LET MY SKIN BREATHE. 

2. SHIRT SLEEVE ORDER

As per the point above, why were we forced to wear blazers in the height of summer, and could only not bring them in when the head teacher decided it was suitably warm enough? It was hot enough six weeks ago Mr Robinson – now half the class has SUN STROKE.

3. HAVING TO ASK TO GO TO THE TOILET

Where else is this a thing? Like name another situation where you have to ask permission to perform a normal bodily function. You can’t can you? Because this rule is ridiculous. There was nothing more embarrassing than putting your hand up and desperately wriggling as you try to get the teacher’s attention because you’re literally about to wee your pants. 

4. OR NEEDING A SPECIAL PASS TO GO TO THE LOO DURING LESSONS

Which, come to think of it, is a violation of basic human rights?

5. MOUNTAIN DEW BEING BANNED BECAUSE IT MADE US ALL HYPER BOIS

I’ll be real I never drank Mountain Dew myself because it both looks and tastes like piss, but it was a restriction of our basic human freedoms to have it taken away from us because we were “bouncing off the walls.” Wtf do you know Miss Jones? Maybe I’m just that excited to learn. In fact why weren’t we allowed to drink non-water in lessons? What if drinking a Fruit Shoot makes me better at Maths??? 

6. NOT BEING ABLE TO CHEW GUM

It was the biggest rule break of them all if you were a regular chewer. That shit was grim and got everywhere. But a theory: If chewing gum wasn’t banned maybe we wouldn’t have to stuff it under the table whenever a teacher came past? Just a thought. 

7. BEING GIVEN LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES TO CHANGE AFTER PE OR SWIMMING BEFORE YOUR NEXT LESSON

You’d be 10 minutes late to the next lesson. You’d get yelled at. It wouldn’t be your fault. But they’d tell you it is. Big sad.

8. AND IF YOU FORGOT YOUR SWIMMING KIT, YOU’D HAVE TO WEAR A GROSS SPEEDO OR WHATEVER WAS KNOCKING AROUND THE LOST PROPERTY BOX

Granted this probably didn’t happen everywhere but you could fully see the poor soul’s knob through it.

9. NOT BEING ALLOWED TO ROLL UP YOUR SKIRT

School skirts were long, ugly and you know what sometimes you just wanted to roll it up a bit to not feel like you’re in the 1800s and maybe expose a bit of cheeky knee. This was such an odd rule and was policied so much that teachers would get you to lift you up your jumpers to check you hadn’t rolled up your skirt. Kinda gross?

10. DOING EVERYTHING IN YOUR YEAR GROUP

Hungry at 12:30? Sorry year 10s can only eat at 1pm. Want to get on the bus first? Sorry Year 7s on first. 

11. ALWAYS HAVING TO WALK ON THE LEFT

Or right, depending on your school. 

12. BEING ALLOWED TO LEAVE LESSON WHENEVER YOU WANTED BECAUSE YOU WERE IN A SPORTS TEAM

This was the biggest flex: rocking up to a lesson, stash on, trainers laced up, hockey stick in hand. You could go as early as you wanted and the teacher couldn’t say SHIT.

13. VERY, VERY SPECIFIC RULES ON WHAT KIND OF TROUSERS YOU COULD WEAR

Skinny jeans were strictly forbidden. It didn’t even have to be a CofE school for teachers to consider skinny jeans the literal devil. Girls went to absurd measures in order to avoid this rule, including wearing tailored trousers to assembly and then changing into skinnies in the toilets after – then hiding from uniform inspectors all day. All that anxiety just for a lewk. I’d still do it now.

14. THE SCHOOL DAY STARTING AT 8AM, AND THE SCHOOL JUST EXPECTING YOU TO BE THERE??

Can’t believe my first lesson was at like 8:30 and I actually went. And to think we weren’t getting paid to be there at that time of the morning. 

15. STANDING UP WHEN ANY TEACHER CAME INTO CLASS

This felt somewhat Victorian and unnecessary, especially when you’re being forced to stand up for a teacher who’s not even your actual teacher, just some other recent graduate teacher asking if they can borrow the projector. And it all felt a bit silly if more than three separate teachers entered your room – what is this, school or musical chairs HUH? 

16. AND THEN HAVING TO WAIT TO BE TOLD WHEN YOU COULD SIT DOWN

This was super confusing because each teacher had a different goddamn rule. Some teachers would say “sit”, some would subtly nod, others hated the rule altogether and didn’t give a shit if you stood or not. If you confused the hyper-strict with the hella-relaxed, you could end up sitting down too early and getting shouted at, or standing up too long and looking like a loser – it was a lot to stay on top of for a bunch of oversensitive, insecure teenagers.

17. SATURDAY DETENTIONS 

Only given to the most naughty people, like those who call the drama teacher a bitch under their breath or the boy who thought it would be fun to run around the playing fields with their top off, being chased by the nice substitute/student counsellor/student nurse trying to reason with them as they do lap after lap. 

18. HAVING TO GET YOUR PLANNER/JOURNAL SIGNED BY A PARENT

I’m sure it was something to do with making sure your parent or guardian was aware you had homework and you were actually doing it, but surely everyone just forged it? Pretty sure my mum told me to forge it a couple of times because she cared so little to check if my German teacher had assigned me a worksheet on Tuesday. 

19. BEING REALLY TOLD OFF FOR DRAWING CUTE PICS AND NOTES IN YOUR PLANNER

Your tutor also didn’t appreciate your list of the ugliest boys in the tutor group on page 11 either but whatever.

20. HAVING RANDOM PATCHES OF GRASS WHERE YOU WEREN’T ALLOWED TO WALK ON LEST YOU BE SMITED BY THE HANDS OF GOD

I swear we genuinely had a round circle of grass with a flagpole in the middle and if you were caught walking on it so help you you would be given a detention so fast you couldn’t even begin to comprehend the levels of bullshit on display.

british secondary school rules

21. LEAVING THE SCHOOL GROUNDS DURING THE DAY WAS A SACKABLE OFFENCE 

It was just off the cards to leave the school at any point during the day. Even if your school was right by some shops and you fancied a sandwich for lunch, you couldn’t do it. If you left during the day for a doctor’s appointment it felt like the most rebellious adventure you’d ever been on.

22. ASKING PERMISSION TO DRINK FROM YOUR WATER BOTTLE

Maybe they can half justify the toilet thing because you have to leave the room but this is just too far. How does me opening my water and taking a silent sip of any concern to my teacher? Does it disturb their lesson? No. Is it rude to drink while they’re teaching? No – it’s literally keeping me alive. 

23. NOT BEING ABLE TO WEAR COLOURED SCARFS, COATS, OR VESTS 

What about my colourful personality?! 

24. BEING FORCED TO WEAR A TIE OF EXACTLY 30CM IN LENGTH OR THE TIE POLICE WILL GET YOU 

But Miss, the tie looks way cooler really short and fat?

25. NOT BEING ALLOWED TO PARK YOUR FIAT 500 IN THE SCHOOL CAR PARK

What if I want to flex my privilege Mr Evans? It’s not my fault you show up so late to work.

26. HAVING NO CHOICE BUT TO PLAY RUGBY IF YOU WERE A BOY

And you were a weedy boi too. Hours of your life spent standing in a wet, cold, muddy field wishing time would move faster so you could ask for the 50th time to do any other games option.

british secondary school rules

27. NO SELLING OF FOOD AT BREAK TIME THAT WOULD UNDERCUT THE TUCK SHOP

Obviously the real crime here was you selling packets of crisps from Spar for double their retail price to posh kids who genuinely couldn’t be bothered to walk to the tuck shop, but maybe if they had a fucking business that they were fucking passionate about they they would know how to fucking run a business but they didn’t.

28. TOUCHING THE INTERACTIVE WHITE BOARD

All you did was take the aux out to play some sweet tunes and somehow you messed up their whole lesson plan. If this were at home and it was your mum you’d call her a moron and flounce out of the room, but you are at school and this is all your fault. 

29. HOW MUCH JEWELLERY YOU WERE ALLOWED TO WEAR

You could wear some jewellery, right? This usually meant cross necklaces for religious reasons and maybe a wee pair of ear studs. But girls took this to mean: cover your arms in bangles from wrist to elbow and make a noise like a dog wearing a thousand collars every time you lift your hands to answer a question. You would eventually be told off for this but what a brilliant bedazzled time it was while you got away with it.

30. DYING YOUR HAIR WAS A BIG NO

This wasn’t just the bright pinks and purples being banned, the school was clear that every “unnatural” colour was off the cards. As unnecessarily oppressive as this rule was, the best part were the rumours that went round of what happens if you actually came in with dyed hair. One being that the deputy head gets the box dye herself and dyes it back right there in front of everyone. Another was, if you don’t change it back by the next day, you won’t be allowed back on school grounds EVER AGAIN.

31. BANNING BRITISH BULLDOG 

Probably the most dangerous game children ever invented. It was also so clearly invented by children, because the whole purpose of the game was just… running at each other? And seeing who survived? It was like dodgeball except the children are the dodgeballs and the dodgeball players.

british secondary school rules

32. CALLING THE TEACHERS ‘SIR’ OR ‘MISS’

If you stayed at your school sixth form and other friends went to college where their tutor was Dave and their art teacher was Rochelle , you couldn’t help but feel inferior. 

33. NO MAKE UP, NAIL VARNISH OR FAKE TAN

Sorry Mrs Vine but we weren’t all blessed with perfect skin that didn’t get ugly chin spots and under-eye bags after a stressful day of food tech and PE.

Plus, it’s just a rule that didn’t bode well with the weekly visits to Bodycare to buy and smother yourself with all of the above. Cue hundreds of girls with 5cm of cheap foundation, concealer lips and Barry M nails telling their teachers it was “natural”.

34. IF YOU FORGOT YOUR PE KIT, YOU STILL HAD TO TAKE PART

“Miss, I forgot my PE top” 

“Well you’ll just have to wear your school shirt and sweat through that and then smell like BO for the rest of the day”

Brilliant. 

35. SKIPPING A LESSON WAS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE

Feels strange considering we routinely skip more uni lectures than we actually attend, but skipping at school was not a thing. Like, at all. If you were ever not present in a lesson you had to be sick, with a note, or doing a sport – if there was no explanation you could be seriously punished. Not going to a class because you “didn’t feel like it” was not a thing. Once I skipped an assembly to sit in the toilets because I couldn’t be bothered and they rang my parents because they couldn’t locate me. School really was another world.

36. NO PHONES

If your phone was even spotted on your person it was confiscated. If they accused you of having one, you’d swear blind you didn’t own one and would even DREAM of bringing it to school. If one was seen poking out of your top blazer pocket that was straight into the teacher’s special tray never to be seen again. 

37. HAVING TO TURN THE BUNSEN BURNERS OFF WHEN THE TEACHER SAID SO

Fine fine fine safety first but also burn baby burn!!!!!

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Everything that happened at the private school you won’t admit you went to

• All the shitty little things that happened at your very average state school

• You can only pass this quiz if you went to a slightly dodgy state school