Many schools had their own ritual for detentions. This is one.
By Joanna Jones
Corporal Punishment at my school only happened at detention, held directly after school on Thursday evening.
If you got into trouble then you got a standard letter home notifying your parents that you were to be detained, and that there was a chance that CP may be administered.
Depending, “may” could be anything from a fairly remote possibility to absolute certainty. A first timer referred for some minor issue by a teacher would be the former. A serious offence might lead you to a meeting with the Head, or his deputy, who would tell you exactly how painful you could expect the following detention to be.
A typical detention would involve four teachers and four prefects. Two of the teachers (always one male and one female) would monitor the class. The other two were the female Assistant Head and one of the male Assistant Heads, or the Deputy Head. They would arrive halfway through detention to deal with those to be physically chastised. The prefects assisted watching over the delinquents and also one of the same sex as the person to be whacked would be required to witness the punishment.
Directly after school the unlucky group would stand outside Room 1.6, a large class on the first (upper) floor of the school. It was wise not to talk.
Entering the class you would sit at a desk with some paper and be given a sheet with some line related to your offence. Irrespective of what you’d done, the first half hour would be spent writing down the line repeatedly.
It was inadvisable to look up. While a newcomer might get a warning, others would get a yellow slip from a prefect or teacher. Two yellow slips in the same detention meant a painful outcome. Similarly if your lines were messy, or deemed insufficient in quantity or quality then one could expect a slippered sore rear end to accompany you home.
After half an hour or so, the two senior teachers would arrive. There would immediately be a perceptible increase in tension as this meant the punishments were about to start.
After a few minutes while they sorted the list, usually of around half a dozen boys and possibly a girl or two, one of them would call out a name.
The victim would pick up their things and then be escorted into the next class room through a link door by the senior teacher of the same sex, and the witnessing prefect.
The link door was left open, meaning that all those in detention would be treated to whatever sounds were made. No doubt it was meant as a deterrent, and deterrent it was. Hearing without seeing can lead to imagination that is worse than reality.
After the boy or girl was dealt with they were free to go home, while the teacher and prefect would return to the detention class and the next name would be called.
For most, though, the detention meant staying writing to the end. As the hour approached a monitor teacher would call out names and you would go up and show him/her your work. If your lines were satisfactory you could leave immediately. If not, or if you had the two yellow slips, then you would be sent to stand next to the link door to await typically something between four and eight firm whacks of the slipper.
I was not an especially well-behaved student and certainly was more familiar than most girls with the detention room. However, I had, until the sixth form, never done anything sufficiently bad to be directly awarded the cane.
I also had managed to avoid the cane for accumulating too many detentions. There were three routes to that caning; two detentions awarded in the same week, three in a term, or six in the year. There was no reset, meaning you could be caned for two in a week on one Thursday and then for picking up the third in a term the week following. Achieving two of these ‘milestones’ simultaneously was a quick way to a full sixer.
The first detention I attended in first form was a shock. It was sobering hearing the reactions of the five boys to their punishments, and the solitary girl was worse. I remember the sobs and pleas that started before she’d even been hit to this day. The screams as she took her three strokes of the cane were worse.
The other detentions were similar as one listened to anything from silence or grunts, to loud wails and begging as the punishments were doled out. Most were on trousers or skirts, but repeat offenders, or those whose lines were deemed inadequate, could be ordered to take their whacking on their underwear.
In third form I picked up a fifth detention in the summer term, having had two before Christmas and two after. I think there was a policy of somehow getting pupils in that position a slippering, as despite doing my lines as well as ever I ended up in the dreaded room where I received six painful whacks from Mrs Taylor (Assistant Head) on my skirt along with a warning that a caning would be so much worse. I was very careful to avoid a further detention that term.
While it was true that sixth formers got sent to the detention room very rarely, those that did were often for more serious issues, which for me (and my clique of friends) could be summed up as A, B, C: Alcohol, Boys and Cigarettes.
All three were straight caning offences.
It was November in the upper sixth that I was observed smoking with a friend walking home from school. The following day we were interviewed by the Deputy Head, who gave the usual lecture about not liking to have to punish young adults but rules were the rules and we should know better. We were both given detention notes and left in no doubt that a four stroke caning was the best we could expect.
My parents were not very amused, but were not surprised my luck had finally run out. Dad was all for ‘reinforcing’ the message at home. However, mum persuaded him that the cane should be enough this time. It was clear that there should be no next time!
Two days later I sat nervously with Anne writing lines (I must not smoke in school uniform), desperately trying not to think of what was coming. Normally detention was a drag. On this occasion the time seemed to fly by and all too soon the two Assistant Heads had arrived.
The first name was a boy. It was hard to concentrate as he took his bag and went next door. I heard the Assistant Head criticise his lines and some pleas before he complied with the order to drop his trousers. At least he took his four strokes pretty well.
Anne was the next name. I could not resist a brief glance as she stood, fortunately unnoticed. She got four whacks over her skirt, taking the first two well but she was audibly yelping on the second pair.
However, I was not next. Whatever selection system was in place I had to wait for a further two boys to suffer, and a girl whose screams were particularly awful.
“Martha Long” was called and I struggled nervously to my feet, picked up my bag and lines and headed for the dreaded door. The two dozen or so detainees remaining were all apparently busy writing.
Soon I was inside. I noticed sickly there were three, to all intents and purposes identical, canes lying on what would normally be the teacher’s desk at the front, along with a large gym shoe that served as the ‘slipper’. The Assistant Head was not overly impressed with my lines, but after a particularly awful pause, she decided to let me off ‘this time’!
The classroom was furnished with old style school desks, the sort with a sloped lift up front. I was ordered to bend over one, so that my upper body was of course sloping downwards, and grip the seat behind. As I did so I noticed she picked up a cane flexed it slightly and then with no real warning whacked it hard across my backside.
Despite my promise to take it quietly the shock was intense. I gave a wail.
The others I managed to take a little more quietly, though the pain was terrible. I desperately tried to screw my eyes shut in the hope that I could keep the wetness that wanted to escape in.
Then it was over. She briefly wrote an entry in the punishment book and I could escape out of the door into the corridor.
Anne was waiting near the entrance and we helped each other miserably home, both promising never to smoke again.
By the New Year I of course had forgotten that promise, especially in visiting the pub with my new boyfriend that arrived after he invited me to the Christmas dance with him.
However, it was not smoking that got me my second and worse caning, but an upper sixth school disco, held after the mock exams in February. The idea was that it was a chance to relax after the exams, before “the final push”.
My boyfriend was part of a group who smuggled some spirits in, and there was much surreptitious sipping and slurping in both the boys’ and girls’ loos as well as the cloakrooms, out of sight of the teachers.
However, of course it was soon clear that certain people were rather merry, and in some cases embarrassingly drunk. Those cases unfortunately included me. I do not remember the latter part of the evening; however, by all accounts I had been well out of it, staggering around, and being more than overly amorous with my boyfriend. Eventually my parents had been called to taken me home, and to cap it all apparently my embarrassment at them arriving at the party had led me to say some very foolish things to the teachers on duty also.
Having spent Sunday sobering up, I knew I was in deep trouble. My father in particular was furious, but was waiting to see the school’s reaction before deciding on any ‘parental action’.
I did not want to go to school on Monday. However, there was no choice but to face the music. The Headmaster described the events at assembly and almost uniquely those deemed most at fault were told to stand. It was not a small group; nine boys and six girls were standing when he completed his list and told us to wait at the front at the end of assembly.
The subsequent ten to fifteen minutes were rather uncomfortable as he verbally laid into us. He emphasised how close we had come to suspension or expulsion, and he was not going to make any assessment of who were more to blame. All of us had let the school down and we were all going to be severely caned at detention. He gave us our letters, already written, and brusquely dismissed us.
The next few days were ones of dread. Everyone knew we were doomed to a serious whacking and the anticipation was terrible as the time crawled round to Thursday afternoon.
Finally we were standing as a group outside Room 1.6 with all the younger pupils who had broken rules. Quickly after, the lot of us were writing lines in what was an unusually large grouping. The room was actually full and some lesser offenders were sent with one of the teachers and prefects to a room across the corridor. All those due for a caning were kept in the main room though.
I felt sick as I desperately wrote the lines as quickly and neatly as possible, sure there were instructions to be severe in their assessment.
Then the Head himself accompanied the Deputy Head and Mrs Taylor into the Detention Room.
The first name called was nothing to do with us, but the second was the first sixth former. It was me.
Slowly I stood, collected my things and followed the Assistant Head into the second room.
Mrs Taylor looked at me rather coldly, a chill told me that this was going to be much worse than the last time.
“You’ve been caned before?” She confirmed as she held her hand out for my lines.
“Yes Miss.” I muttered nervously as she glanced over them.
“Is that all you’ve done, Miss Long. I am going to give you one extra. Skirt off!”
I felt sick as I realised that I was up to seven on my knickers. Slowly I undid the clasp at the back, then froze as she picked up a cane that had not been there the last time, and was sitting next to the ‘normal’ canes on the teacher’s desk.
The normal canes, which had been painful enough, were probably a few inches short of three feet long. In contrast this one must have been around six inches longer, and looked much thicker and darker.
Mrs Taylor noticed my fear-struck, frozen state.
“After that display at the dance, all of you are going to be made examples of. Unless they are lucky enough that it is their first time to be caned, then this is the cane your friends will be experiencing also.” She paused briefly before adding coldly. “What did you expect?”
My friends told me later how awful they felt as they listened to the Assistant Head’s declaration. However, my mind was fixed in horror at the cane she ‘kindly’ flexed in front of me.
She raised her voice: “Now get your skirt off, unless you want more extras.”
I have never been so scared in my life as my fingers fumbled with the zip and pulled down my skirt and stepped out.
“Tights to your knees too.”
That was a new one. Normally ‘skirt off’ was sufficient. Clearly the Head was absolutely livid.
Despite having spent most of the day promising myself to be brave, and take my deserved punishment, I confess to having been totally unnerved by the Assistant Head. The prefect, a sixth form friend of mine, genuinely looked as if she would rather not be there. It did not help calm me as for the second time I bent over the front of the school desk and gripped as tightly as I could.
The cane tapped against my regulation green pants. There was no requirement to wear them, but they were a little thicker and more fully cut than the usual knickers I wore. However, with the cane now resting gently on my rear I was sure it was going to make little or no difference!
After a stomach churning pause the stick was gone. A low pitched humm and then Crack!
It was all I could do not to stand as I desperately bit my lip to stop myself from screaming. Five female friends were outside listening fearfully as they wrote lines. I desperately needed to be brave for them.
Mrs Taylor took her time. However, when the second crack came I knew I was not going to make it, despite desperately limiting myself to a high pitched groan as every sense in my body seemed focused on the agony in my rear.
Another pause, then the cane cracked again across its target for the third time. This was incomparable to the last time I’d been in the room. I gave up screamed and the tears started to flow. I no longer cared what my friends were thinking as I desperately clung to the desk.
The fourth branding was met with another scream and I was now audibly muttering: “No!” And: “Please!” As I writhed trying to assuage any small modicum of agony.
“Keep still, Long!”
An angry order that somehow made its way into my consciousness. I locked my legs and clung tighter.
Another scream as another hard stroke landed, I think near the top of my backside in that case.
Only two to go. Surely the pain could not get any worse.
Wrong. It could. I am sure that was the cut that landed right on the base of my bottom, and the scream I gave was ear splitting.
Bawling continuously, I waited for the final crack which was right across the middle somewhere, and the one that was probably angled, crossing about three of the others.
I stood immediately as I screamed and continued bawling as I clutched my rear gently. I was in shock, oblivious to Mrs Taylor and her comments.
Tracy, my prefect friend, had to help me pull up my tights, then finally I staggered out and went straight to the loos, locked myself in a cubicle and just sobbed. While part of me wanted to explore the damage, the agony as Tracy had helped lever the tights over my swollen bottom meant that I daren’t contemplate it.
By the time I felt able to walk home two other girls had been ‘done’. One was lucky in that she got the normal cane, being her first time, though she was clearly still struggling with the consequences. However, Linda, was clearly in a similar state to me, having also got seven blistering blows.
Walking home was a slow business. My mother inspected the damage before I had a chance to look myself, and was not especially sympathetic. I was happy to be sent to my room with a few slices of bread, in lieu of tea, where finally I could strip properly and examine the dark lines that scarred my rear for at least two weeks.
The following day only the two girls who had not been caned before, out of the fifteen of us, were able to sit with any modicum of comfort.
My weekend was equally miserable, not helped by my mother giving me a long, humiliating and very painful bare bottom hand and hairbrush spanking over her knee, with a warning that if I ever was caned again she would let my father take his belt to my bare backside, young adult or not!
However, my second experience with Mrs Taylor was enough, and I ensured I never saw the inside of that detention room again.