Hailsham itself seems in many ways to be a privileged boarding school, but puzzling details like the weekly medical exams and the emphasis on artistic achievement suggest that there is more to Hailsham than meets the eye. Kathy’s memory of the Hailsham sports pavilion establishes her relationships with both Ruth and Tommy, and conveys information about all three of their personalities. Tommy’s lack of creativity makes him a social outcast at Hailsham. His lonely tantrum on the field reflects this outsider status, and highlights his emotional volatility. While Tommy abandons self-awareness in his blind rage, Kathy exhibits constant restraint and self-consciousness in her attempt to calm him down. Kathy also contrasts with Ruth in her response to Tommy’s tantrum. Ruth loudly blames Tommy for his own mistreatment, reflecting her position as a vocal and confident ringleader in her social group. Meanwhile, Kathy quietly watches Tommy through the window and worries about his favorite shirt. She positions herself as a careful and sympathetic observer, far less direct and more private about her opinions. However, Kathy also presents her view of Tommy as the more nuanced one—only she considers Tommy’s feelings, realizing how upset he will be if he ruins the shirt.
Kathy’s attempt to comfort Tommy shows her concern for him, as well as her sensitivity to his feelings. But it also shows her discomfort with public spectacle, since she walks away when she realizes that other students may be watching. Kathy also becomes embarrassed when speaking to Tommy in the stairwell, another crowded public place. Her adolescent anxiety about being seen or overheard seems partly to do with Tommy himself, and the gossip that she might provoke by speaking with a boy. Yet it also reflects the lack of privacy at Hailsham, where the constant presence of other students and guardians means that Kathy is often under surveillance. Kathy’s first memory of her teenage self takes place in the sports pavilion, which emphasizes her value for privacy. The seclusion of the sports pavilion makes it a unique sanctuary at Hailsham, a private hideaway where she can observe others without herself being overheard or seen. Tommy demonstrates little awareness of being observed when he throws his tantrum, showing that he is a less careful guard of his emotions than Kathy. But his more cautious attitude about Miss Lucy suggests that he does value keeping certain information secret. His decision to tell Kathy about the talk with Miss Lucy also reflects his trust in Kathy.