29 primary school rules that we never realised were dumb af when we were kids

Getting a note wrong on the recorder was actually pure stress


The more you think about primary school, the more you realise how ridiculous so many of the rules they had were. We were so little and our brains so squishy that we basically just did (mainly) everything we were told. Told to freeze? We froze. Told to be quiet? We put our fingers on our lips to ensure a single sound couldn’t escape. No bathroom breaks because you “should have gone at playtime”? We held it. Or pissed ourselves like desperate Sims characters. I don’t wanna go all Karl Marx on you but a lot of these primary school rules are low key brainwashing and have an air of the capitalist agenda to them. Like using six year olds for forced labour seems outrageous – unless it’s in a classroom environment and suddenly wiping down the whiteboard is framed as a TREAT!!!

The more you think about the system and its blatant hierarchies and punishment systems, with naughty chairs and timeouts being juxtaposed with stars of the week and golden time, the more you wonder what sadists came up with these systems and how did they become so widespread. Only real masochists would make YOU bring in sweets on YOUR OWN birthday, that’s for sure.

Anyway, let’s recount the ways I hate thee, primary school rules.

1. When the whistle blew you had to freeze

At the end of every break time, PE lesson, and outside activity the second that whistle blew you knew you needed to freeze. If you were on one leg or doing a handstand at the time, you just had to hold it and then flex to all your friends that you stayed still afterward. Also, we all know that one person who refused to freeze and left you all stuck on the playground in the rain for an extra 10 minutes whilst you were waiting for them to stand still.

2. Golden Time, and getting banned from Golden Time if you misbehaved 

Golden Time was a sacred time that without fail was the highlight of your school week UNLESS it got cancelled. Cancelling Golden Time was the ultimate threat that a teacher could make. Instead of running round in the school fields without a care in the world or doing arts and crafts (making a phat mess), you would spend the last hour of your Friday sat in silence in the classroom wondering how awful you must have been to get to this position. (Chances are you probably got caught blocking the toilets, cheating on your spelling test or talking in assembly – capital primary school offenses.)

3. Putting your fingers on your lips to indicate you were being quiet

During the early years of primary school, the way you were taught to be quiet was by being told to put your fingers on your lips and therefore you could not talk because your fingers were there. However, you quite soon realised that putting your fingers in front of your mouth didn’t act as a silencer and you could talk through it. Although all the suckups in your class would continue this facade until Year 6 to please your teacher.

4. Having to hold hands when you left the school like little ducklings 

Yes, obviously this one has some safety benefits but nobody wants to hold hands with the kid you just watched pick their nose!

Infant School sports day

Not sure this huddle would work with current social distancing rules

5. Having to go outside to play in all weather conditions except when it absolutely poured and having ‘wet play’ 

Honestly, this was a recipe for hypothermia and slightly torturous as you saw the dinner ladies calmly standing under umbrellas whilst you had to embrace the cold. However, those days where you were allowed wet play (playtime INSIDE the classroom) were some of the best lunchtimes you ever had.

6. All of the songs we had to sing and the actions that accompanied the songs 

There were school songs, there were hymns, there were scout songs but why did they all warrant actions or out of time clapping? Regardless of how unenthused you were at the time, you knew you owed it to your classmates to sing because otherwise you’d be kept inside singing over break time.

Primary school assembly actions

Some varying levels of enthusiasm from the year 5s here

7. Bulldog being banned

Every child was outraged when bulldog got banned on the playground because someone took it too far and ended up in hospital with a broken wrist/ collarbone/ ankle.

8. A wet paper towel would fix every injury 

Whether it was a broken wrist from bulldog, astro-burns from hockey, a scraped knee from the playground, you would find yourself in the school office with a blue paper towel to fix the problem. No injury was too large for the blue paper towel, no seriously – even if you needed medical attention you would get a fresh towel and be sent back to class.

9. Forgetting your PE kit meant you have to do PE in your pants

Looking back was this indecent, was this child cruelty/ just genuinely not okay? Urm, ABSOLUTELY. Why did you deserve to be punished because your Mum didn’t have time to wash your shorts from last night’s football practice?

10. Giving out sweets and chocolate on your birthday 

Why were sweets only limited to people’s birthdays??? However, birthday days were the best days – except for the one lactose intolerant kid when someone brought in a Cadbury’s party bag.

11. If you misbehaved at break you had to spend five minutes facing a wall 

How was this constructive? This punishment was given out for the most ridiculous reasons: standing up from your chair too early, not asking permission before you used another page in your exercise book, snapping a pencil by accident.

12. Getting your pen license

Every school had some kind of system where you progressed from writing in pencil to a special handwriting pen and if you were really good, a fountain pen. My heart still goes out to all those year sixes who haven’t progressed beyond pencil – you’ll get there one day guys!

Girl with handwriting certificates

Doing Mum and Dad proud!

13. EVERYTHING fun was banned: gogos, scoobies, loom bands, Tamagotchis, Crazy Bones

When teachers said they were checking drawers and book bags it was like a primary school drugs raid, you’d all smuggle your contraband into pockets, pigeon holes, in with PE kits. Literally every joy bringing item we knew was banned: jacks, cats cradle, diablo, bouncy balls, Daisy Dolls, Tamagotchis, Match Attax, Top Trumps, Gogos, Club Penguin Cards, Scoobie Strings, Loom Bands, Crazy Bands, Polly Pockets.

14. Having to write on plain paper with a line guide

Another rule that was just SO stupid. Even though every teacher insisted this was a life skill you must have, and that all display work needed to be written on plain paper, no one mentioned in the adult world it’s perfectly acceptable to use lined paper. Still fuming about all those hours I spent rewriting my homework because my line guide had gone wonky.

Plain paper no lineguides

It just doesn’t even look that neat?

15. Taking the register and all the pointless tasks that came with it

Why did every teacher come in for afternoon register and think they were spicing it up a bit by asking us to say our favourite fruit instead of our name? Just lead to chaos and the register taking 15 minutes instead of two, what a great use of time!

16. Singing your teachers name in the morning and having to repeat if you weren’t enthusiastic enough

“GoOD MoRNinG mRs SmItH” – the universal dulcet response of every British school child.

17. Sharpening your pencil was a reward 

When somehow being able to sharpen a pencil was a reward, and if you hadn’t behaved you’d be made to sit there etching out every last grain watching your work become messier and messier, just accepting you were about to get shouted at for not being tidy enough. SORRY MRS JOHNSON I CAN’T PERFORM MIRACLES!

18. Cleaning the whiteboard was also a reward 

In retrospect, why was cleaning pen off a whiteboard something a whole class would fight to do? I’m starting to think this rewards system is a bit bogus you know?

Primary schoool whiteboard

These guys have a lot of wiping to do!

19. Emptying the class bins was a reward

What was it with teachers literally treating every bit of cleaning as a reward system, and more importantly, why were we so willing to do these mundane chores? Some please explain the psychology behind our primary school brains!

20. Having to put tape on your pierced ears 

Didn’t matter how long ago you got them pierced, tape was the only option because lost earrings were not something your class could afford to waste their precious time searching for. Inevitably, someone’s earrings still fell out through the tape on the sports fields and you’d spend all PE lesson looking for them.

21. The reading hierarchy of Biff and Chip

Skipping levels, regardless of how good a reader you were was forbidden. You start with lilac and go all the way to dark red, the ultimate confirmation that yes, you can read.

22. Being allowed to calibrate the interactive whiteboard

Sorry, did someone say the ULTIMATE primary school joy? Nothing can and ever will be able to surpass the excitement that comes with clicking those targets in the corners of the board.

23. The compulsory recorder lessons

Did you even really go to primary school if you didn’t learn how to play London’s Burning on the recorder?

24. Having to submit every piece of typed work in Comic Sans 

Comic Sans is essentially the overarching theme of primary school that seeped into all aspects of your life, including your own work you’d do in the ICT suite. Regardless of whether it was a PowerPoint, poster, website or letter it had to be done in Comic Sans.

25. Only Year 6s were allowed to sit on benches 

Unspoken rule, but Year 6s ran the school and when they sat there in assembly, smug on their benches away from the patches of yesterday’s school lunches fermenting into the hall floor, they made sure you knew it.

26. Being banned from waving at pedestrians from the bus when you were on a school trip 

Honestly, what’s wrong with being friendly to the general public? We’ll never know, but what we do know is that if you got caught waving at random individuals you would guarantee yourself a seat home next to the strictest teacher on the trip at the front of the bus.

27. Having a set date, far too early in the year, where you switched from skirts to summer dresses

It was always in March, it was always raining on the uniform change day. However, being tough and weathered by the beautiful British weather, you anticipated this day ALL year and could not wait to swap into your stripy/checkered outfit.

Primary school uniform summer dress

Look at the sheer joy because the summer dress is out!

28. Having to hold hands with someone you fell out with for the rest of a break or lunchtime

The classic way to fix a relationship, hold hands. It never worked, it only made you both angrier and more determined to pass angry notes for the rest of the day.

29. Only being allowed to bring ‘healthy snacks’ to school

We all had those weird fruit bars and humzingers because anything with too much sugar in it was banned, unless it was someone’s birthday or a cake bake – which made absolutely no sense. However, to this day we all still envy those kids who came in with their coco pops cereal bars and squares bars and managed to justify they were healthy.

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• Why primary school children deserve to be taught about LGBT issues