An all-boys school accepts girls, and there are problems
By Julie Baker
My name is Katy Jones. I was born in Northampton in March 1962, the youngest of three girls. My parents were both doctors and we had a very comfortable upbringing with a nice home, holidays abroad and private schooling. My sisters went to a day school in Northampton right through to their A Levels, but when I was 16 my parents offered me the chance to go away to boarding school for my last 2 years before university. My father had been at this school in Leicestershire in the late 1940s, and until 1978 it had resolutely remained as a traditional all-boys educational establishment. However, the governors had decided a few years before that, from 1978 onwards, they would admit a small number of girls into the sixth form.
I was in that first intake. There were only 14 of us and we were accommodated in a newly-built girls house that was actually designed to take a full complement of 30 pupils. In that first year, we didn’t have to share bedrooms, and it soon became obvious that it would take some time before the school managed to properly integrate and govern these new girls. Right from the outset, we were told that all disciplinary matters would be dealt with by Mrs James, our Head of Girls School, and that all the established school rules would apply to us. Additionally, it was emphasised to us all that while relationships with male pupils were allowed, even encouraged, there was a strict ban on any relationship becoming intimate. No boys were permitted to enter the girls’ house at any time.
As with any school, then or now, we were also told of the likely punishments that we could expect if any of the school rules were broken. These sanctions included, but weren’t limited to, detentions, ‘gating’ (loss of freedom of movement), suspension from school and, ultimately, expulsion for persistent offenders or for anything deemed to be particularly serious. It wasn’t spelt out to us what might fall into this latter category, but it was generally thought that taking drugs or engaging in any inappropriate activity with a boy might well qualify. The boys were subject to all of these potential punishments, including getting the cane.
I had a very outgoing personality in those days. I was academically clever and good at most sports. I was also a pretty girl with a slim body and an open, friendly face. Predictably, with these attributes, I settled in quickly and soon had a wide circle of friends amongst both the girls and boys at the school. I completed my first year and a further 15 girls came into the lower sixth form at the start of my second, and final year, at the school. This was slightly annoying as I then had to share a bedroom, which made it almost impossible to entertain any boyfriend in warm and comfortable surroundings. This, of course, was not really allowed but, in reality, easy to safely accomplish during that first year. I enjoyed male company but there were a few tie-ups that never got beyond holding hands.
However, at the start of my final year I started going out with a boy called David who, like me, was in the upper sixth and also captain of rugby and tennis. We had many things in common, including a love of tennis. I was the captain of the girls’ tennis for the 1979/80 school year and we played indoors and outdoors depending on the weather. We simply did not have enough numbers to be able to play the bigger team sports, such as hockey or netball, which required more than four players.
David taught me a lot in that final year at school. He was tall, strong and very good looking. We made a striking pair and some people referred to us as the ‘golden couple’. In reality, we were very much in love with each other at the time.
Our relationship developed over that final school year. The warmer weather, and the wide-open spaces around the school campus, would afford us many more opportunities to get together.
One obvious opportunity was after tennis practice on a Tuesday afternoon. This was the one session in the week that was mixed, with the emphasis on doubles play. David and I were rarely paired together as we were the strongest players in our groups. However, we always finished the session at the same time, and the tennis courts were at the far end of the playing fields with a poorly maintained woodland area on the far side of the boundary fence. This area was full of thick undergrowth, saplings, some mature trees and many fallen trees that had never been cleared. It was an ideal place for secret meetings.
Clearly, we couldn’t be seen to be disappearing into the woods together at the end of the training session, so we devised a routine where we would leave separately and meet at a particular grassy clearing in the middle of the plantation. The end of the session was normally quite fragmented as players finished their games, so melting away into the tennis court surrounds proved not to be particularly difficult. Over the early weeks of the summer term this became a Tuesday afternoon habit for us.
Our A Level exams started at the end of May 1980 and it was the first Tuesday of that month when we ran into difficulties. After tennis, David and I followed our normal routine and it wasn’t long before he and I were stood in the clearing. He had on his normal tennis gear including a dark blue polo shirt, white shorts and trainers. My colouring, through heritage, is quite Scandinavian, and in those days I had straw coloured hair which contrasted nicely with my warm brown skin that had been tanned by the early summer sun. I had on my favourite all white tennis dress which was a brand worn by many of the top players at that time. It was sleeveless and the top was tight fitting around my breasts and tummy. It flared out fractionally lower down, but it was very short and only just covered my bottom. On match days, I used to wear some frilly knickers, which were popular at the time, but on that day I was wearing a pair of simple white cotton panties, short socks and tennis trainers. I felt good.
When Miss Bremner, our tennis coach, suddenly arrived on the scene, we were locked in a passionate embrace. I’ve never moved so quickly in my life.
“What’s all this about?” I heard her say from the edge of the clearing.
David and I quickly separated but I could see why she might have been quick to judge where this situation was heading, given that she could see us both hurriedly rearranging our clothing when we realised we were being watched.
We were both blushing profusely by the time we faced Miss Bremner.
“I’m sorry, Miss,” was all that I could manage. David said nothing.
“OK, you two. Back to school now and go directly to the school secretary’s office. Wait there while it is decided what is going to happen to you both.”
With this, she turned and headed back to the playing fields. We followed, saying little to each other, and when we were back on school property we both headed to the main school building. We didn’t have to wait long for the outcome. Within 10 minutes we were told by the school secretary to go upstairs and sit outside the headmaster’s study. We would be interviewed separately by Dr Barron, the headmaster, when he was ready. We were, of course, both still dressed in our tennis gear.
David and I sat outside for what felt like ages waiting to be called in. We had a brief chat and he said that he would try to take the blame, but it was difficult to see how he could pull this off. He apologised for getting me into trouble, but I told him that it was a proper joint venture and that we had to share the consequences equally.
He was called in first. I could hear muffled voices from within and then eventually Mrs James, the Head of Girls School, came out of the room and walked straight past me without speaking. I heard the door close behind her as she entered her own study that was on the opposite side of the corridor.
What happened next was both unexpected and a bit shocking. Through the door, I heard David getting six firm cane strokes. There was no noise other than the sound of the impact of the cane, and he was soon coming out of that room with his head held high and no visible sign that he had been beaten in any way. He was a strong 18-year-old boy, almost a man, and arguably too old to be dealt with in this way. However, these were the rules and he had accepted his punishment. Our eyes briefly locked, but he said nothing as he disappeared down the corridor.
“Katy, I’ll see you next,” said Dr Barron through the partially opened door. “And please get Mrs James from her office.”
There was no doubt that Dr Barron was the senior member of staff. He did most of the talking and it felt like Mrs James was very much deferring to her more senior colleague.
“You know why you are here, Katy,” he started off by saying. “You know that intimate relations with any of the boys is expressly forbidden by the school rules. I would also like to say that you a owe a great deal of gratitude to Miss Bremner. This may seem like an odd thing to say, given that she reported you to me, but I suspect that if she had held back for another five minutes then you both might have been doing something that would have left me with no alternative other than expulsion. Have you anything to say for yourself, Katy?”
Once again, all that I could manage was a fairly limp, “I’m sorry, Sir.”
“I’m sure you are, Katy. I’m going to suspend you from school for 10 days. When we have finished here, I will phone your parents and ask them to come and collect you, this evening if possible. You will be back in time for your first A Level exam, but please ensure that you take all of your books home so that you can revise and be fully ready for these vital examinations. Any questions?”
I was stunned. This seemed to be so unfair. David’s punishment was no doubt unpleasant, but it was quick, didn’t disrupt his school life and didn’t involve his parents. This wasn’t right. Why was I being discriminated against purely on the basis that I was a girl?
“Yes, I do have a question, Sir,” I replied. “David and I were in this together as joint partners. Why are you giving me a different punishment to him?”
I could see him hesitate. I don’t think he had seen this one coming, and it was a classic example of how the regulations for the two sides of the school had not been properly merged and synchronised.
“We don’t cane girls,” was all he could manage in reply.
“Why not?” I shot back at him.
“It doesn’t seem right,” he answered.
I could sense that he wasn’t comfortable with this line of questioning and his inadequate answer.
“I want to be caned, please. Same as David.”
Suddenly, I felt like I was on firm ground. Why should I be treated differently?
Dr Barron seemed to grasp the situation quickly, and he became decisive again.
“Very well, Katy. If you that is what you really want, then we will make it happen. Please bear in mind, though Katy, that the punishment is six strokes with the standard school cane, and it would be on your unclothed bottom. That is the way it is done here and always has been. Do you want to change your mind? Clearly, I can’t do the caning, so Mrs James would take my place.”
I could feel butterflies in my stomach at the thought of Mrs James giving me a caning. But this was definitely a better option than the suspension. It also meant that David and I were being dealt with in exactly the same way. I took some moments to summon up the courage.
“No, Sir. No change of mind. I’ll take the caning.”
Dr Barron got up from behind his desk and, as he left the room, he mumbled, “I’ll leave you to it,” in Mrs James’ direction.
“OK Katy, I think we’ll do it in my study. I feel that we will both be more comfortable in there,” she said as she turned to go out of the door. “Please bring the cane with you, Katy. It’s on the top shelf in the cupboard by the door. Oh, it might be an idea to slip your panties off and pop them in your pocket.”
The cane was easily located, but I was a bit puzzled by the last request. Perhaps this was part of her plan to make me realise what I had let myself in for. I reached under my dress and pulled my panties down to my ankles. I stepped out of them and they were soon safely in my pocket. As I followed Mrs James on the short walk to her office, I was very conscious of the unusual feeling of freedom around my now uncovered bottom that was hidden beneath my tennis dress. This brief moment also gave me an opportunity to weigh up Mrs James and try to work out how traumatic this experience might be for me.
Mrs James was in her mid-40s, dark and quite stocky, but still managing to appear rather elegant. I liked her for her friendliness and honesty, but I couldn’t help focusing on her powerful shoulders. I knew that she had two teenagers at home of her own, and I wondered if they also were treated to regular doses of corporal punishment. These thoughts prompted me to look down at the cane in my hand. It was about a meter in length, light brown in colour, and had a crook handle. It was a bit thinner than I expected and I deduced that this would only add to its ability to sting terribly.
We were soon in Mrs James’ office where she then felt a need to give me a bit of background information.
“I’m more used to slippering girls rather than using the cane, Katy,” she explained. “Normally, I would use a plimsoll over a girl’s knickers with her skirt either raised or taken off. Also, I would normally give a girl 4 strokes, rarely any more. However, you have managed to talk yourself into getting six strokes of the cane with no protection. I have caned girls in schools that I’ve worked in previously, so you shouldn’t be concerned about my ability to carry out the punishment. This is not going to be pleasant for either of us but there is now no alternative. Please turn around, raise your skirt and bend over so that you are touching your toes.”
I followed her instructions and, as I lowered my head, it felt like my heart was about to burst out of my chest it was beating so hard and fast. Next, I could feel the cane resting on my bottom.
“Ready, Katy?” she asked.
“Yes, Miss,” I replied.
“You’ve got a fairly small bottom, Katy, but I’ll space out the strokes as best I can.”
There is no way that anyone can be properly prepared for their first ever cane stroke. At my first school, when I was 10, I got the slipper for being cheeky, but in reality it was three fairly gentle taps with a light shoe on my bottom that I hardly noticed. I suppose the sense of it being an ordeal was the same, but the physical pain from that cane bore no comparison. The fire simply exploded in my bottom and I let out a sharp cry. Instinctively, both of my hands went back to the source of the pain to both rub it better and to protect me from further punishment.
“You need to get back down, Katy, but this time I think we’ll have you gripping onto your ankles please. If you hold on to your ankles you have a better chance of staying in position for the next five. If you don’t hold your position then eventually I will have to start repeating the strokes,” she warned.
She said this in quite a kind way and I knew that I should try hard to do as requested.
The second stroke came in lower and was less of a shock, given that I was more prepared for what was coming. It stung like crazy though. The third one seemed to land right at the top just before bottom turned into back. Less flesh and, I found, a bit easier to take.
“You’re half way through, Katy,” I heard Mrs James telling me. “Do you want a short break?”
I did straighten up and she allowed me to rub both cheeks, but I wasn’t up for delaying the second half.
“No, please carry on, Miss.”
I bent over again, firmly hanging onto my ankles. This was certainly a help.
I would have to say that the second batch of three strokes was not as bad as the first set. Yes, no less severe, but my body was getting accustomed to the pain and seemed to be coping better. There were a few tears at the end but, apart from the sound of the cane, the whole process had been completed with little noise or fuss. Mrs James put her hand on my shoulder at the end and suggested that I pull my dress down.
“OK, Katy, not easy for either of us. You took it well but just be careful in future, as we don’t want to revisit this type of situation again. You are welcome to stay here for a few minutes to compose yourself if you want and then please take the cane back to where you found it.”
“Thank you, Miss, but I’m fine now, so I’ll get on.”
I left Mrs James’ office to make the short walk back to Dr Barron’s study. The door was still ajar, as I had left it, and I bowled in feeling relieved this whole business had been dealt with and put to bed. Imagine my shock when I realised that Dr Barron had returned and was busy attending to some paperwork at his desk.
“Oh, sorry Sir,” I blurted out. “I thought you had gone for the day. I’m just returning the cane to the cupboard.”
“That’s fine, Katy. Go ahead. I’m just working a bit late today to get ahead on the end of term school reports.” As he said this he gestured towards the cupboard.
I instantly could see a problem. Dr Barron’s desk directly looked onto the cupboard and I needed to stretch up to replace the cane on the top shelf. I didn’t have my panties on and I certainly didn’t want to put them on in front of him. However, I knew for a fact that the back of my dress would ride higher as I reached up. There was no obvious way of avoiding this without drawing attention to the issue. I simply had to hope that he wouldn’t be watching. At the moment I put the cane back in position on that top shelf, I just knew that most of my naked bottom would be visible to him. As I turned back, I sensed his eyes were quickly returning to his paperwork but I did my best to convince myself that all was well and he hadn’t seen. I’ll never know. I knew I had coloured up a little but the fact was that this was a highly charged moment in time, certainly for me and probably for him. Had he taken his chance to see the recently caned bottom of one of his female pupils?
What a couple of hours that was! For days afterwards, I had six livid red stripes evenly spaced up and down my bottom and some dark bruising that lasted just over a week. David wanted to inspect the damage but I really didn’t feel that I wanted to share this with him. To be honest, that day was the beginning of the end for us. I certainly didn’t blame him for the situation that we got ourselves into and we tried to rekindle our relationship over the next few weeks. There were aspects of this episode that I was comfortable with but overall it was an embarrassment for both of us. Two senior members of the school dealt with like children. I suffered the same fate as David but I still couldn’t really take him seriously after he had taken that caning.
We both sat our A Levels a few weeks later. He went on to study law at Durham and I went to Oxford to read English. We parted on good terms at the end of the school year but have only seen each other since in passing at school reunions. As the years have gone by I’ve often reflected on the caning that I took that day. I have fed off that episode so much, but it hasn’t prevented me from having a settled career and happy relationships.
Asking to be treated equally that day was one of the best calls that I’ve ever made.
© Julie Baker 2022
Julie welcomes contact from her readers. Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Julie’s Twitter address is: @JulieBaker_cane