Changing discipline between secondary modern and private schools

By Joanna Jones

The following are a selection of extracts that describe some of my reactions and thoughts that I put in my diary which I moved to start my sixth form in a boarding school. I hope you enjoy them!

Mary

May 6th 1964

Nervous day today. Interview with parents at the Catherine College. The boarding school is very different in atmosphere from my current secondary modern. Long discussion about my illness and how it affected my eleven plus. Fortunately the fact I have apparently been the brightest girl in the last five years at the school means I am being considered. The headmistress, Mrs Taylor, is clearly strict, but friendly as she asks questions about my O-levels. Then questions about my ambitions. Lots of comments on working hard to catch up if I come and on the need to keep within the strict rules of the school. I have always been well behaved so that should not be a problem. Most of the girls in my sec. mod. were slippered but I avoided that, except when Mr Horden slippered the entire class. Not much I could do about that! Anyway it all seemed to go well, fingers crossed for a few weeks time.

June 3rd 1964

English O-level today. Seemed to go well, all the revision on Hamlet paid off! Great news when I get home, I got the place at Catherine College, with a guaranteed bursary, and a scholarship for pupils to attend from unusual backgrounds, subject to good O-level results. Mum asks me to work hard. I know how much this chance is going to stretch them!

July 30th 1964

Nervous night before going to school to get my results. Better than I ever hoped or expected. Nine A’s out of nine! The first person at the school to get straight A’s since goodness knows when. Better than my big brother, and he got to the Grammar! Anyway I have the scholarship! Parents take me out to celebrate with a meal at the local hotel.

20th August 1964

Uniform fitting. Can’t believe how expensive the skirt and blazer was, to say nothing of the sports kit, etcetera! However, everyone says how smart I look. Not impressed about the regulation knickers. Apparently even sixth formers are not exempt to wearing the maroon things.

7th September 1964

Last night at home with parents. Had roast chicken, a family favourite. Mum is clearly getting a bit emotional. Fred is going away to Uni in three weeks, and me leaving to board – I suddenly realise what a big change this is going to be for them.

8th September 1964

We arrive around lunch time. After a meeting with my housemistress we go for a walk around the grounds, then it is time for my parents to go. Quite a few tears between mum and me. After they’ve gone I briefly feel lonely, but there are four other girls in our house starting in the sixth form too. Suddenly we are all chatting. An hour later and the house fills with all the returnees. I find Doris is my roommate and to be my mentor to help me for the first few weeks. She seems fun. The rest of the evening is a blur as I am introduced to more girl’s than I can ever remember in one go.

9th September 1964

Maybe the excitement, or the unfamiliar bed, but I don’t sleep well. Nerves have set in as I pick at my breakfast. Suddenly I feel insecure, a little homesick. However, everyone is very friendly. A couple of the other new sixth formers in my house admit to feeling the same way. Talking about it definitely helps.

22nd September

Wow it has been two weeks. I can’t believe I was ever homesick! It is great here. So much to do and lots of friends. The facilities are amazing and the teachers really engaged. All are as good as the best couple we had at my old school. I am not as behind as I worried. Miss mum and dad of course but I really feel settled in.

26th September

I noticed two girls had four nasty red stripes on their bottoms as they showered after Saturday games. Nobody says much but the rumour is they were teasing a younger girl and were lucky it was not more from their housemistress. I knew the cane could be used but it was shocking to see the damage for real! A couple of other newbies were as shocked as me, but the others just seemed to think it was normal.

7th October 1964

Bit of a shock today. Doris came in late from prep, clearly in pain and a bit red-eyed. Apparently she’d popped down to the shop to get something without permission and been spotted. Miss Harte, our housemistress, caned her!! Doris asked me to put some cold cream on her bottom, which apparently helps. The four marks were vivid red and they formed raised ridges. I cannot imagine how painful they must be. Doris was gasping and groaning no matter how gently I applied her cream. It seems to be very easy to get whacked here. Suddenly I feel scared and that I need to be extra careful.

25th October 1964

Great to see parents again at half term. The seven weeks or so have really flown by and I really am enjoying the challenges. A week to relax and then back. I really feel like a Catherine Girl now. Only minus is that I find myself rather distant from my old friends here. It seems as if our worlds are drifting apart.

2nd November 1964

Great to be back at school, and back in lessons. For the first time I understand what people mean about having two homes.

17th November 1964

I have an appointment with Doris in Miss Harte’s office later, directly after prep. Thought I’d write my diary now as I doubt I will be in any state to later. Miss Harte came into our room around midnight. Too much chatting after lights out, how many times had she warned us (I admit three or four) As before she warned us that our voices were disturbing others and told us enough was enough. She would deal with us after prep. I never thought she would cane us for this, but Doris is pretty certain that’s what is going to happen. Today has been dreadful. Can’t really concentrate or eat. My friends have been trying to tell me not to worry. Not worry? All I can think of are the horrid red stripes she is going to give me and the red-eyed faces of other girls in the house after a post-prep visit to her study. I hope I can be brave, but at the moment for the first time here I really want to run away. Not possible though.

18th November 1964

Yesterday evening I don’t think I will ever, ever forget. It finally happened. After prep Doris and I found ourselves outside her study. We had to stand outside for ages, my body tingling in anticipation as other girls went to and fro. Some smirked at us, others looked away, or sympathetic. To be honest the sympathetic looks were almost worse; the “I know what is going to happen and how terribly painful it is.” Fortunately, I suppose, we were the only two, so we did not need to wait while she dealt with any younger girls. She called me in first. Unlike the other times she was not welcoming and relaxed. I stood opposite her as she sat at her desk. The lecture went mostly over my head. It was all about how disappointed she was that I had not taken her warnings to heart. All I could do was stare sickly at the three foot cane on her desk. I could not believe she was shortly going to hit me with it. Then she got to the point. I clearly needed a bit of a shock, in her view, so she was going to give me three stokes of the cane. I was already beginning to cry as I fumbled with the clip and slid my skirt down my legs and off. She then had me bend over and grab the front of a wooden chair, legs straight. I felt I was shaking all over as my maroon knickers were offered up for her cane. I gripped more tightly when she told me not to move if I did not want extra. It was impossible not to feel anything other than sick as she started to tap with that cane of hers.

Then it happened. I screwed my eyes closed as I heard the swish. Then there was an almighty ‘whack’ as the cane landed. There was a delay then the pain hit. I screamed and only just managed not to stand up. The blazing stinging pain was awful. Then a pause and she did it again. I was sobbing before the last hardest one landed low on my buttocks. I knew it was supposed to hurt, but never, ever that much. Any hope that I could take the pain without crying was lost. After those three strokes I was clearly a wreck. Miss Harte admonished me not to get into trouble again as I somehow struggled into my skirt.

Dismissed, I staggered to my room doing my best to retain some minimal vestige of composure. After a couple of minutes I stripped into my pyjamas. Seeing the three stripes in the mirror, to me a badge of dishonour, brought fresh tears to my red-eyes.

Doris was struggling when she came in soon after. Apparently our housemistress blamed her more and had given her a full six. Her marks looked worse than mine.

There was something calming and soothing about her putting cream on my bottom and me doing the same for her. However, that did not help the pain. I slept on my tummy, and judging by the sharp twinges as I sat down during lessons today will be on my tummy again tonight. At least my friends have been supportive – in fact in some ways, odd though it sounds I now feel more part of the school than ever.

The End