Trials and tribulations in a new sixth form
By Gillian Howard
In the summer of 1986 I had passed all my GCSE exams with ‘A’ passes and was going to 6th form college to study Maths, Chemistry and Physics, along with Sociology at A level. My parents were both doctors and wanted me to follow them into medicine, which I was eager to do. I had attended a very good mixed grammar school which, until the abolition of corporal punishment, had applied it on a regular basis.
I myself had the back of my legs smacked on several occasions, and had received the slipper last year just before Christmas when all the girls in our class were given the slipper for making too much noise getting changed after PE. I had never been caned even though I had seen the welts left by it in the changing rooms.
As I was hoping to study medicine, mum and dad wanted to give me the best chance so instead of me continuing into the 6th form at my present school they applied for and got me a place at a mixed public school about 10 miles from home which had an exceptional success rates for its students. I was a little disappointed as I would be leaving all my friends behind including Alex, my boyfriend, and Alison, my best friend since I was five. Also, what really upset me was when I was informed that I would have to wear school uniform again.
We received all the instructions about what we could and could not take as I would be boarding. We had to wear school uniform at all times and this could be checked at any time. This included wearing bri-nylon bottle green knickers with tight elastic at the waist and around the legs and a fitted green skirt through which you could see the outline of the knickers. In summer we were allowed to wear a green and white gingham dress. Our gym knickers were exactly the same but yellow and we wore a red short gym skirt and yellow gym shirt. With our skirt we wore a pale blue blouse and green blazer and a straw boater with green band; we wore green knee length socks with two light blue bands at the top. I had worn a school uniform up to now, and they had always been strict about it, but we were always allowed to wear our own knickers and the thought of wearing these and not my own mini briefs was not very appealing.
As I arrived at school about 60% of the girls were new and, like me, had been to state school. I was placed in a dorm with six other girls, all new to the school, and we were situated in the new part of the school which had just been opened to cope with the added influx of the sixth form.
We were all given the rules and regulations and a list of the punishments that could be given which included receiving the slipper, being smacked, and also receiving the cane across the hand in class or across knickers off the headmaster. I I hadn’t realised till then that corporal punishment was still allowed in public schools.
After we had all unpacked and introduced ourselves, we had to change into our uniforms in order to attend an assembly just for 6th forms. As we sat in the great hall the doors opened and everybody stood as the Headmaster and six teachers came down the centre, all wearing caps and gowns.
As they went onto the stage the Headmaster asked everybody to sit before saying: ”I would like to welcome you all to this great school as we embark on a new era by introducing a sixth form for the very first time. While some of you have moved up from the lower school, most of you are new to the school. There are some things which the school takes very seriously indeed and the most important of these is the school reputation. I hope you all take time this evening to read the regulations because any pupil who does infringe the rules will receive a very sore bottom. I will not hesitate to use my cane on the bottoms of either boys or girls.
As we returned to our dormitories, all the girls were giggling as they got to know their room mates. Mine were Chloe, Geraldine, Rosalind, Francis and Charlotte. We got to know each other and tried to read the rules of the school. We all said how surprised we were about the punishments. I said that if we got the cane off the headmaster our knickers were so tight fitting they would offer no protection. I was surprised that, apart from Rosalind and myself, none of the other girls had ever received corporal punishment, and Rosalind had only been smacked twice.
We started lessons the following day and the classes were a lot smaller than I had attended previously, with only 20 per class. There were usually more boys than girls in my classes. I witnessed several pupils, both boys and girls, being smacked or receiving the slipper and I myself had the backs of both my thighs smacked in the dining room for talking in the queue.
It was about 5 weeks after Christmas that I witnessed a caning when 2 girls rushed into our maths lesson a little late and they each received 2 strokes across their non-writing hand.
Every Friday, the Headmaster’s secretary would come into each set of dormitories and put a notice up of the names of pupils who had been caned by the Headmaster that week. Most weeks there was only 1 or 2 names but one week there were 10 and we noted that both boys and girls were on the lists.
As we started back after Easter, I was walking along the corridor with Chloe and Charlotte as we had a free period and were on our way to the library to study. As we passed one of the classrooms, Mr Drake, a Latin teacher, came out.
“You three girls, in here now!”
We followed him back into a class of third years.
“How am I supposed to instil discipline when three 6th years are walking past laughing and interrupting my class? All of you, hold out your non-writing hand.”
We looked open-mouthed as he opened his cupboard and took out a cane. Chloe was nearest and she held her hand out and he placed the cane across the palm, raised it over his shoulder and brought it down with tremendous force, causing Chloe to scream in pain. He told her to be quiet and gave her a second stroke.
I was next and as I held out my left hand he placed the cane across the centre of my palm. My eyes were transfixed as he brought the cane down and it struck my hand so hard it felt has my fingers had been cut off. I bit my lip to stop me screaming and then felt the cane on my hand again. I watched it rise before descending and causing a second welt to rise on my palm.
Charlotte was then given the same treatment before we all gave him our names. We were then told to carry on without a sound.
As we approached a washroom, we entered and run cold water over our hands to try to ease the pain. We spent the rest of the morning in complete silence in the library.
Charlotte had both her legs smacked in the dining hall as she showed her hand to Francis, who was also smacked. We all escaped any further punishments that year but mum and dad were not pleased when they saw on my report that I had been caned.
As we started back after the summer holidays we were catching up with each other and commenting that Geraldine was a little late getting back.
Chloe said: “I saw her mother dropping her off and her luggage has been brought upstairs by one of the porters.”
I said: “I will go and see if I can find her.”
As I opened the door, I could see Geraldine very slowly coming along the corridor. I rushed up to her and asked: “What ever is the matter Geraldine? Why are you walking slowly and crying?”
She muttered: “Six of the best for this,” before showing me a very big love bite on her neck.
I helped her into our dorm and she lay face down on her bed while I told the others what had happened.
After 30 minutes she had calmed down a little. Then there was a knock on the door and matron came in. The rest of us were sent to wait outside. After 10 minutes she left and we re-entered. Geraldine was in bed, face down.
I asked: “Is there anything we can do?”
She shook her head and raised the bed sheet back. We saw the 6 raised welts across her bottom which had apparently been covered in cream by the matron.
I said: “Those marks look really bad. I am so sorry for you.”
It was the first time I had seen marks after a caning and I could see where her knickers were obviously rubbing on the marks.
Over the next few days, Geraldine was very careful about sitting and walking and had many questions to answer. She was then mortified when her name appeared on the notice board on Friday as having received 6 of the best for having a love bite.
As we approached the last 2 weeks of Christmas term, we had all got permission to go into town for some shopping on Saturday and were all looking forward to it. On Friday morning, we were having physics and, as the lesson started, Mr Lyons went through our last assignments. He called everybody out one at a time to discuss them in detail, which is what he normally did, and would give anybody whose assignment was not up to standard 6 with the slipper.
I was a little taken aback when I was called out first as he would go through the bad assignments first.
“Dawn, can you explain to me why you have only completed less than half of the assignment?”
I looked at him aghast and said: “I did all the assignment, sir. But I did think it was a short one. To demonstrate, I reached into my bag and gave him my sheet with the assignment on.
“What about the remainder on the back of the sheet?” He asked.
I looked in astonishment.
“Sorry sir, I did not see that. I will get it done and let you have it this afternoon, sir.”
“No, you will not. For a start, you are going to receive 6 with my slipper. Think yourself lucky you are not on your way to the Headmaster for 6 of the best with his cane. Secondly, you can do the entire exercise again tomorrow morning in the Saturday punishment class.”
“But sir, we have been given permission to go into the town shopping.”
“Well if that’s what you want to do tomorrow, we can still send you to the headmaster now. I suspect, though, you might not feel too much like shopping tomorrow. Would you still prefer to go shopping tomorrow, Dawn?”
“Very well, bend over and do not move or you are straight to the Headmaster.”
I felt the slipper rest across my bottom and then it moved and the force and sound as it struck made me take a deep breath. I managed not to scream out. It was the same on 5 more occasions. As I returned to my seat, I felt a sudden shooting pain as I sat down and could see all the boys, especially, smiling at seeing me get my bottom warmed with his slipper.
As the rest of the girls set off for town the following morning, I wished them well and headed for the punishment class. We worked relentlessly till 12.00 lunch time when we were brought a sandwich and a glass of water. We were told to continue as we had another 2 hours before we could leave.
I finished my assignment and then started to read up on my next assignment. As I handed my assignment in, I caught the glass and knocked it over, spilling the remains of the water over the floor, much to the amusement of the juniors in the class. I was told to go the Janitor’s room and collect a mop and bucket. I cleaned up the mess, returned them to the janitor’s room and returned, sat down and started to read up on my next assignment again.
Mr Lawless, the teacher in charge, then walked around the room checking everybody was still working. As he waked past me, he asked where I was up to and I said: “I have given you the assignment I was set, Sir, and am now reading up on my next one, Sir.”
“Very good, Dawn, nice to see you use your initiative.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him look through the window and then heard a noise at his cupboard, but we were not allowed to look up.
“Ok everybody, stop writing. Dawn, could you please collect everybody’s work please?”
After doing so, I noticed he had placed his cane across his desk. He looked through each assignment and wrote something in his folder. Then he stood up.
“Very good, class, all the assignments appear to be satisfactory in content. Your teachers will assess their worth. Dawn, come to the front please. Your work appears good but I cannot condone carelessness in punishment class. Left hand out, please.”
He placed the cane across my hand, raised it high and brought it down with so much force I screeched in pain. I was told to be quiet before another followed, increasing the pain.
“Right hand out, please.”
The two strokes were repeated on my right hand, by which time I was really struggling to keep the tears back. We were then released.
On my way back to the dormitory, I stopped at the toilet to run cold water over both my hands. I went into the dorm and was shocked to see all the girls back but in tears on their beds. It turned out that they had gone into a cafe for their lunch but they had taken their boaters off and the deputy headmistress had seen them. She ordered them all back to school immediately and they had all been caned by the headmaster for being improperly dressed in the town centre.
I said I had been caned across the hands, but it was nothing like their caning.
As I got home for Christmas, I was again taken to task for being caned and receiving the slipper.
The Easter term went very well and soon we were back at school for the last term and our important exams. We were now wearing our school dresses all the time and they felt much more comfortable. We went on an expedition just before we started our exams; we went into the town and had to find different things in a sort of treasure hunt.
I was teamed with Gary who, like me, was expected to sail through our exams. We finished the task and waited by the bus stop for the rest to finish. We were talking to Mr Lyons who commented on the fact that the wind was getting a bit strong and we may have a storm brewing.
Needless to say, Gary and myself got far and away the best marks and were congratulated back in class. As we still had over 40 minutes left, we were given a project to get on with in groups of four.
We were really concentrating when I heard: “Dawn Sheridan, the Headmaster would like to see you please.”
I looked up and saw his secretary with Mr Lyons. I got up and followed them out of the room and along to the headmaster’s office. As I waited outside, they went in and, after a few minutes, they both came out. Mr Lyons left and the secretary went into her office. She then came back out of her office carrying a pink folder and red leather book and went back into the headmaster’s office.
I waited a few minutes, then the door opened and the secretary called me in. The office was large with 2 leather armchairs and a leather Chesterfield settee on one side, a large oak desk in front of the window and an upright chair facing the desk in the middle of the floor. The headmaster was sat at his desk and the secretary stood just behind him. So I stood next to the chair as the headmaster stood up.
“Miss Sheridan, you have been with us nearly 2 years and have proved to be a very able student, and we predict great things for you. However, today you have disgraced the school on several occasions in that as you were returning to the meeting point the wind got up. On several occasions your dress blew up exposing your knickers to everybody, and several boys were heard to pass comment. So, I will listen to no excuses. You are to receive 6 strokes of the very best with the senior cane. Bend over the back of the chair and my secretary will then roll up your dress and pin it out of the way. If you stand or try to prevent being caned you will be held down.”
I could not believe what I had just heard. I bent over the chair and grabbed the seat in front. I was told to hold on to the rail below the seat and I felt my knickers tighten and rise slightly.
The headmaster went to a cupboard at the side of his desk and took out a thick cane, but it still bent double in his hands. I could feel tears forming in my eyes as the cane touched my bottom and then it moved. I heard ‘swoosh, thwack’ and felt a line of fire ignite my bottom. Another followed and the pain increased to a level I had never experienced. It was taking all my will power not to scream, but the tears were flowing freely by the last. I was a blubbering wreck and could not remember being told to get back to class, but the secretary escorted me.
Everybody looked at me as I returned and tried to sit, but with the elastic in my knickers rubbing the welts I shouted in pain and was eventually allowed to go to see matron. She applied cream and took me to my room.
All the girls sympathised with me and my name was top of the list on the punishment board that Friday.
I passed all my exams and went to Oxford to study medicine.
© Gillian Howard 2015