I am not in favour of real life corporal punishment of schoolchildren. If you don't want to read about such matters in fantasy or fiction, please do not read what follows:
My First Day As a Headmistress
I became headmistress of Powell Hill Girls' School at the comparatively young age of 32. I had previously been deputy head of the school for a few years and although initially a few of my colleagues had been rather resentful of my early promotion I had proved good enough at my job to win them over. Nevertheless, now that I was headmistress I knew that I would have to impose my authority early on to prevent the girls, and even the staff, from thinking that I was an easy touch.
I spent the Monday before the first day of the new term in my office, reading the personnel files and the files that were kept on each of the girls. I already knew at least something about most of the girls already at the school - I had taught English to many of them - so I concentrated most on the notes that the various junior schools had sent us about the new girls who were to join us the next day. This task took most of the day.
When I had finished I moved the furniture in the office around a bit and placed a couple of pictures and some ornaments about the room. It made it feel more like my office and not the office of Miss Henrison, my predecessor.
Finally I opened an small cabinet tucked into a corner of the room. Three canes hung there, suspended by their crook handles. The one on the left was just over two feet long and as thick as my little finger. It was intended for use on first year girls, and was also used when it was considered appropriate to cane a girl on her hands. The middle cane was the one that had the most use made of it. It was fully two foot six inches long and as thick as my middle finger. It was used on girls from the second year up to the fifth. Despite its innocuous appearance I knew that it packed a real sting. I had frequently had occasion to send naughty girls to Miss Henrison's office. Almost always they had reappeared near to tears or actually crying and with a marked difficulty in sitting still. There were a few "tough customers", repeat offenders who were proud of their ability to take a caning. But even these feared the last cane, on the right.
The final cane was, perhaps, more suitable to a boys' reformatory than to a girls' school. Over three feet in length and a darker colour than the other two canes, it was almost as thick as my thumb. Despite its thickness I knew that it was wickedly supple. When sixth form girls earned themselves a caning, this was the cane that they felt. It could also be used on any other girl from the second year and above when it was felt that a more severe punishment was desirable. From the stories I had heard, even the toughest girls were in tears and often begging for mercy after just three or four strokes from this formidable implement. A few years later I felt that it was really an inappropriate punishment instrument for my school and I donated it to a grateful headmaster of a neighbouring boys' school. But at the time of my promotion I accepted it as part of the status quo.
Beneath the three canes, on the floor of the cabinet, lay a large plimsoll, its sole worn smooth by repeated and forcible contact with the bottoms of naughty girls.
These were the emblems of my position. Only the headmistress was entitled to use corporal punishment at Powell Hill School.
And it seemed to me that, in order to make the right impression, it was important to show that, despite my relative youth, I fully intended to make use of such punishment when it was needed.
Miss Henrison had been somewhat of a disciplinarian for much of her time as headmistress. However, for the last year or two, as she had neared retirement, she had tended to become more lax, and discipline had suffered as a result. I intended to put that right.
Accordingly, at a staff meeting before school started the next day, I told members of staff that if any girls misbehaved repeatedly after warnings or offended again after being given lines or detention then they should have no hesitation in sending them to me. A few examples of naughty girls with sore, stripy bottoms early in the term would do wonders for discipline and, although I didn't mention this to the staff, for my reputation among the girls. I asked them to ensure that, so far as possible, it was the ringleaders and troublemakers that were sent to me, not the followers. I explained that I hoped that a few more canings than normal at the start of term would mean that I would have to use it less later on.
And, by and large, that was how it worked out.
The very first girl whom I caned, however was not sent to me by a teacher at all. After Assembly on that first day I had been returning to my office amidst a crowd of girls. I came up behind two fifth formers without their noticing me. The shorter one said:
"What do you think of our new head, then, Anna?"
To which her friend replied:
"It's a joke! She's not old enough to be a headmistress. She only got the job because she was always sucking up to old Henry!"
I compressed my lips and placed my hand on Anna's shoulder. She turned round and gasped in surprise when she saw that I had heard her impertinent remarks. A blush quickly spread across her pretty features.
"Come to my office, girl!" I ordered.
When we were there I sat down at my desk and asked Anna to stand in front of it, with her hands on her head. I took the Punishment Book out of its drawer and turned to a fresh page.
"Name and form, girl!" I snapped.
"Anna Walkington, 5B, miss," she said dismally. Although I am married it is traditional at the school to address all female teachers as ‘Miss'.
"I'm really sorry, miss. I didn't mean it. It was a joke. I'm really sorry."
I was not interested in her excuses: "Quiet, girl. Just stand there and keep your hands on your head."
I had never taken Anna in class and I went to the filing cabinet to dig up her file. I found it and returned to my desk.
I read the file carefully. It seemed that Anna was a fairly average girl, not particularly naughty, but no paragon either. She had earned her fair quota of detentions over the years and, no doubt, had been given lines or impositions on many occasions, though these were not recorded. However she had only been sent to the headmistress's office on one previous occasion. That had been for "disruptive behaviour in class" when she'd been in the second year. She had avoided the cane that time. The notes indicated that she had received four smacks from the slipper. I compressed my lips. Anna Walkington's luck had run out. It was time for her to make acquaintance with the cane.
"I see that this is not your first visit to this office, Anna," I said, looking up.
"No, Miss." Her face was still a bright red and she looked desperately miserable. But I had no sympathy for her.
"You got the slipper from Miss Henrison. Did it hurt?"
There was no answer.
"Yes, miss. It stung awfully. I'm really sorry, miss. It was only a joke. I didn't mean it."
I ignored the last part of her remarks: "Well, you're about to find out that the cane stings a lot more! Take your hands off your head and pull that chair into the middle of the room!"
"Oh, please miss! Not the cane!"
"Yes, miss! The cane! With a record like this, you're very lucky not to have had it before!"
This was true. Anna had been in detention as many as six times in one term in the third year. Several teachers had a practice of sending girls to the headmistress if they reached four detentions a term. Apparently Anna had been fortunate - her teacher must have felt that the detentions were punishment enough.
"Come on, girl! Unless you want to find yourself in more trouble!"
Anna finally obeyed, her pretty face a study in distress and consternation. Meanwhile, I walked over to the cabinet and selected the medium cane.
I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Anna by now. I knew she hadn't been serious and she obviously never guessed anyone would hear her casual remarks. Nowadays I would have ignored the incident or passed it off with a casual remark of my own. But I wasn't going to back down on my first day in charge - and it did seem as if young Anna was overdue for a caning.
"Roll up your skirt, Anna, then bend over the back of the chair and hold onto the seat!"
The fifteen year old did as she was told. By now she must have realised that her luck had run out, that she was going to be caned and that there was nothing that she could do about it.
Anna was a tall girl, as tall as me actually - though rather slimmer, and had no difficulty in assuming her ignominious position over the chair. Her regulation navy blue knickers stretched tightly over her teenage bottom. She was trembling slightly, in anticipation of what was about to happen. I made sure that the skirt was well out of the way and that it would not roll back to interfere with the punishment.
I raised the cane and flicked it lightly against Anna's bottom. The girl flinched, although it could scarcely have stung at all. Although I had not been permitted to use the cane during my time at Powell Hill I was by no means ignorant of its use as a punishment implement.
The school at which I had taught before coming to Powell Hill permitted all teachers to use corporal punishment and, during my time there, I had had to use the cane on a number of naughty schoolgirls. Furthermore, I could still well remember what it was like to be on the receiving end! Yes, I had been sent to the headmistress more than once myself and I clearly remembered the awful humiliation and pain involved in a caning.
So, despite my relative inexperience, I knew what I was doing. I took aim, hefted the cane and whipped the cane down smartly across the centre of Anna's waiting bottom.
In later years I developed my own "Beaufort scale" to measure the force of a punishment using the medium cane. Light taps, just going through the motions of a caning, would be 1. 2 and 3 would be hard enough to sting at the time, quite sharply in the case of 3, but not to leave bruises or lasting pain. From 4 onwards it started to be a real punishment and anything over 7 was severe. The most serious grades of stroke, 10 and above, were intended to - and did - hurt like hell.
That first stroke of my career as headmistress was, I should say, around five on the scale. The cane swished musically through the air and, as it smashed into Anna's knicker-clad rear there was a very satisfactory Thwacckk! that echoed around my office.
Poor Anna! The fifteen year old gave vent to a sharp squeal of pain and then suddenly started to cry in loud sobs.
As I said, I was already starting to feel sorry for Anna. She was obviously already bitterly regretting her thoughtless words. On the other hand I didn't want to send a misleading message by letting her off too lightly. I thought for a moment, watching the contortions in Anna's bottom as the girl tried vainly to come to terms with the intense smarting in her lower regions caused by just one stroke of that cane.
I decided that she would get just one more stroke - but that it should be one that she would remember.
"One more stroke, Anna!" I said, in an encouraging tone.
This time I stepped back and pulled the cane further back, right over my shoulder, before stepping forward and, in the same movement, lashing the cane down with much more force than before to land across the lowest part of Anna's bottom. This time I felt the force of the contact all the way up my arm. It must have been force seven or eight.
Anna shrieked loudly, nearly pushing the chair over in her distress. She leapt upright and danced madly around the office, her hands pressed to her outraged rear. I allowed her do continue to do so, as I returned the cane to the cabinet - I had told her it was to be the last stroke, after all.
When the cane was back, I turned to Anna.
"Stop that disgusting exhibition at once, Anna! Pull your skirt down properly and stand still, facing my desk. And no rubbing!"
I settled myself comfortably in my desk and looked up at Anna. She had done her best to obey my instructions, but she couldn't help hopping from foot to foot in her intense discomfort. Her hands were tightly balled up into fists by her sides. She was still crying, but obviously making an effort to stop.
There was a box of tissues on my desk. I took a couple out and held them out to Anna.
"Here, girl, use these!"
Anna stepped forward to take them, gasping as she found out for the first time how painful it could be to walk with a freshly caned bottom. As she wiped her eyes, I recorded the remaining details in the Punishment Book. Then I looked up at the caned girl again.
"I hope that will be a lesson for you, Anna! I can see that you didn't enjoy that, and neither did I. So let's not have a repetition! If I ever do have occasion to punish you again, you'll realise how lightly you've been let off this time!
"I want you to come back to my office after school today at four o'clock, Anna. I will have a note that I want you to take back home to your parents, explaining why I have had to cane you. You must bring the note back to me before assembly tomorrow, signed by one or both of your parents."
This was an innovation of mine, Miss Henrison had not used this procedure. My idea was that, for some girls, having to tell their parents would be as bad a punishment as actually being caned.
I dismissed Anna and she limped towards the door, still dabbing her eyes with the damp tissues. I started on some paperwork. On the first day of term, and my first day in charge, there was much to be done. I was able to work uninterruptedly for the rest of the morning.
It was about half past two in the afternoon and I was beginning to wonder if the day would produce no further victims for my cane, and whether the message already sent out was sufficient, when there was a knock on my door.
I was not surprised when the door opened and Karen Barker ambled in. In fact I was rather pleased. Karen was exactly the kind of girl I hoped would be sent to me. She was a fourth year girl but, unlike the older Anna, she was no stranger to the cane! Despite her high spirits and occasional naughtiness, which led to her finding herself in trouble so often, Karen was a highly popular girl, good at sports and at academic work. She was an influential leader amongst her peers and I knew that if she took back the message that I caned to hurt, and much harder than Miss Henrison, the message would get home.
Karen walked into the office and stood in front of my desk. She was not exactly at ease, but did her best to look unconcerned.
"Well, Karen, what are you doing here?"
"Miss Winton sent me, miss."
"I see. Well, there's no need to look so proud about it! Did she give you a note?"
Karen grimaced and passed me a note in a sealed envelope. I opened it and read it:
To: Mrs Holdsworth From: Miss Winton
Karen has been repeatedly disruptive in class. I have warned her twice and she already has 100 lines. Now, when my back was turned, she stuck some stickers onto the book of the girl sitting next to her. I think she will benefit from your "New Deal"!
Karen stood impassively as I read the note. She must have known what to expect, although she probably felt rather surprised that she'd been sent to me on the first day of term. I looked up.
"Well, Karen. I hope that you appreciate just how disgraceful it is for you to have been sent to me for punishment on the first day of term, on my first day as headmistress. I'm sure you know the form. Pull that chair out and prepare yourself for the cane."
Karen did as she was told without any fuss. I knew from having read her file, to which I had paid particular attention, knowing what I did of her, that she been caned no fewer than five times in the last school year, but that she had never received more than four strokes. As I again removed the medium cane from its place I decided that Karen was about to experience her first "six of the best".
When I turned around Karen was already in position, her knickers tightly stretched across her soon to be caned rear. I smiled grimly. Karen could hardly have expected to get away with that, but I didn't blame her for trying.
Although the cane was often given over knickers, as had been Anna's punishment, it was normally given on the bare for serious matters or for repeat offenders. Karen was a walking definition of a "repeat offender" and, indeed, all five of her canings had been on the bare bottom.
"Come on, Karen. Knickers down!"
A slight groan was her only protest. She stood, pulled down her knickers, allowing them to fall to the ground, and then resumed her position over the chair. She was not so tall as Anna and it was apparent that the chair back was digging into her tummy.
I walked behind her and took aim with the cane. I administered Karen's punishment slowly and methodically. Each of her six strokes was laid on to hurt - harder than Anna's first stroke, but not quite so hard as the second - and I made sure to cover the whole of her bottom. She took it well, staying in place throughout and scarcely making a sound as the cane lambasted her bare posterior. I knew it must be hurting her, though. I could see the welts produced by each cane stroke across her pale bottom-flesh.
After the sixth stroke I told her to stand up and adjust her clothing. Instead of returning the cane to the cabinet I left it on my desk this time, in case it might be needed again. As Karen carefully pulled her knickers back up I noticed that the fourteen year old schoolgirl was crying quietly.
I told her to return at four o'clock for the letter to her parents and dismissed her. I felt things had gone well. She was not about to tell her friends that I was an easy touch.
She had scarcely left the room when there was another knock at the door. "Just like buses!" I thought, "you wait for ages and then two come along together!"
This time the culprit was Lisa Bailey, another girl I wasn't surprised to see. Lisa was in the third year and I remembered her as a naughty girl from when I'd taken her class. The note she passed me told me that she had used a swear word to her teacher after being told off. She seemed to have lost her belligerence now and looked very nervous. Her eyes were drawn to the cane lying on my desk and no doubt she had seen what Karen Barker looked like after her visit to my office! I told Lisa to stand in front of my desk, hands on head, while I checked her disciplinary record. Lisa had been caned twice before and qualified as a repeat offender.
I gave Lisa four strokes, all on the bare and all about as hard as Anna's first. She didn't take her punishment as well as Karen and was in floods of tears before the end. Before her dismissal I told her, too, to report to me at four to collect the note for her parents.
I resumed my paperwork and this time there was no interruption for a long time. By half past three I was thinking that there would be no more visitors for punishment that day. I was satisfied - three girls punished, all of whom knew that they had been well-caned.
Then there came another knock!
It was Ruth Platt, a little girl from the first year. She had been sent by her teacher for deliberately spilling some ink onto another girl's case. She looked really frightened at being in my presence. Perhaps word had already spread. I made her stand with her hands on her head while I dug up the notes of her junior school headteacher. They were not very illuminating, but the school Ruth had attended did not use corporal punishment, so it was clear that she had never been spanked at school before.
Despite my intention to acquire a reputation for severity, I felt that the cane would be inappropriate in this case. Instead I took the plimsoll from the cupboard, sat down in the chair, and took young Ruth over my knee. I turned up her school skirt and gave the naughty young lass a thorough slippering that soon had her pleading for mercy. After eight stinging smacks I allowed her to get up. I didn't ask her to return at four o'clock - a slippering was not, in my opinion, of such moment as to merit a letter to the parents.
Ruth's was the last punishment of the day. I collected my post, including the notes about the canings, from my secretary and sat down to await the trio of caned girls.
The knock came just on four. Lisa and Anna were there together, and I could see Karen walking slowly towards us - obviously still feeling it. I decided to keep the three young ladies waiting for a while. When Karen arrived I told them all to wait outside facing the wall with their hands on their heads until I called them in - "and no talking!" I emphasised.
I resumed my paperwork. After about a quarter of an hour I decided to call the girls in. I walked over to the door. As I neared it I heard a faint whisper. Had I still been at my desk I would have missed it. It was Karen's voice, and it sounded as if she had said, perhaps in response to one of the others, "You lucky cow, I got six!"
I opened the door. The girls stood there, faces pressed to the wall, hands on their heads, with no sign that they'd been talking. I beckoned them all in to stand in a row in front of my desk. I glared at Karen.
"Karen, you have already been caned severely today. And yet you still refuse to obey simple and unambiguous instructions. I told you not to talk, didn't I?"
To her credit Karen didn't attempt to deny her offence. She hung her head, "I'm sorry, miss!"
"You will be!" I turned to the others.
"Now, you two! Were you talking, too?"
Both girls shook their heads desperately.
"Very well. I will give you the notes for your parents. Karen, you stand by the wall, I'll deal with you when these two are gone."
I was just about to give Anna her envelope when Karen burst out:
"Please, miss, it isn't fair! Anna Walkington was talking just as much as me!"
I turned angrily to Anna. "Is this true, girl?"
"No, miss, she's making it up. I wasn't talking!"
Karen smiled. "In that case, how come I know that she only got two strokes off you? She was boasting about pretending to be hurt by the first stroke, so you'd let her off more lightly."
I knew Karen was telling the truth. It fitted in with what I'd heard. And after a while Anna admitted it. But she said that her caning had really hurt.
"It did hurt this morning, miss. It still hurts, a lot!"
I gave Lisa her envelope and dismissed her. She looked very relieved to be allowed to leave. Then I addressed Karen.
"I told you not to talk, and you disobeyed me. You know that I have to punish you."
Karen did not protest. I walked to the cabinet and, this time, selected the cane hanging from the left hand hook. Karen's bottom had already suffered enough - this punishment was to be on her hand.
I was fairly sure that Karen was right-handed but I checked with her to be on the safe side. She nodded, so I told her to hold out her left hand. At first she held it out too high, so I told her to lower it to elbow height - to permit a good swing of the cane. Even then I took hold of Karen's hand to position it exactly to my liking. I could feel the girl trembling slightly as I did so. Her small hand was delicate in appearance. She held it level, with her fingers together and her thumb slightly to the side.
That thin cane, although shorter than the others, is ideally suited to hand caning. I lifted it up. Before taking final aim, I looked at Karen's face. The girl had closed her eyes. I whipped the cane down, hard. It was supremely whippy, screaming through the air. As it smacked down across her outstretched palm, I looked at her again. Karen's eyes opened wide and she shouted out in pain. Anna, too, watching nervously, gasped in surprise. For some reason many schoolgirls think that a hand caning is less severe than one on the bottom. In fact, stroke for stroke, the opposite is the case - unless a very effective cane, indeed, is used on the posterior. A bottom caning is, however, a lot more embarrassing for most girls.
Karen had pulled her hand away and was holding it near to her mouth, blowing on it and licking it.
"Come on, Karen! Hand out again!"
Karen sniffed back some imminent tears and held her hand out once more - not quite so steadily as before. The mark of the cane's previous visit provided me with a clear target to aim at. I whipped the cane down again.
Once more Karen yelped and waved her hand about, her dancing no doubt reviving the sting in her rear. This time I dropped the cane on my desk and told Karen to stand by the wall, while I dealt with Anna. When she reached the wall Karen tucked her left palm into her right armpit, pressing tightly to try to reduce the stinging pain.
Now it was Anna's turn. She had only received two strokes earlier, so her bottom could certainly take another dose. Also her punishment had to be more severe than Karen's. Not only had she, like the other girl, been talking when she knew it to be forbidden, she had also lied about it. As she was a senior girl and as she had been let off so lightly before, I did consider making use of the senior cane for the first time. But the medium cane was still lying on my desk, next to its junior colleague, and I was sure that being caned in the presence of a younger girl would make the punishment worse for Anna. So, I picked up the medium cane.
"Pull the chair out again, Anna. This is rather like déjà vu, isn't it?"
Anna did not seem amused by my sarcastic remark, although Karen seemed to be recovering a little and was watching with growing interest.
Anna was now in the same humiliating position she had taken up that morning, although there was now an additional spectator. I was not satisfied. I took hold of the girl's knickers and pulled them down - any girl who earned two caning in a day did not deserve such protection. I ignored Anna's protests, even when I realised that she had started to cry again. She had boasted to Karen about how lightly she'd been let off - now this young lady was finally going to get the comeuppance she deserved.
The marks of the two earlier strokes were clearly visible on Anna's slender bottom. The uppermost marks, across the centre, were faint and fading, but the lower welts left by the second stroke were still vivid, with bruises forming around them. I decided to give Anna another four strokes, to bring her up to six in all, and to deliver them in the space described by the earlier two strokes.
Poor Anna! I was rather angry and I did lay the strokes on hard. She shrieked loudly at each stroke and I constantly thought that she was going to lose her grip on the chair and jump upright, but somehow she managed to stay down throughout. Perhaps the knowledge that Karen was watching, and that if she did interrupt the punishment it would become common knowledge among the schoolgirls, helped!
Despite her best efforts, however, Anna was howling like a baby by the time the fourth stroke lashed down onto her unprotected bottom at a full force ten. Anna was unlikely to think that she'd been let of lightly this time!
I returned both canes to the cabinet and told Anna to adjust her clothing, but it took her rather a long time to do so - pulling her school knickers up was obviously a rather painful process.
Finally, I sat down again at my desk and called both girls to stand in front of me, hands on their heads. I gave them another good telling off and told them both to write out "I must not disobey direct instructions given to me by the headmistress" 100 times by the next day. In addition Anna was to write "Lying, in an attempt to avoid punishment, is deceitful and despicable" 100 times. The lines were to be brought to me with the notes from their parents.
With that I dismissed them. My first day as headmistress was over.