Parliamentary Research

A young MP visits Queen Anne’s to discover the secret to good school discipline but gets more than she bargained for

By Tara Patterson

At twenty-four, Hannah Philpott was the youngest MP in parliament. As a member of the up and coming SNP party she had been surprisingly elected to represent a lowland Scottish constituency in the 2015 general election. Hannah was passionate about education and its role in social mobility; she believed that anything was possible, you just had to strive for your goals to achieve. However something frustrated her. It was a problem that had dogged her own school days and something that she felt had held her back at times and that was the falling standards of control and discipline in the UK state school system. Something was going to have to be done and she was in the right place to do it.


Hannah was quite a small lady at five feet tall in her heels and with a very trim and fit size eight figure. She had shoulder length brunette hair cut into a bob, some said that she often looked younger than her years, but she was a fighter, strong willed, quick witted and a master at debate. Although Hannah’s party was in opposition, Hannah soon developed a good working relationship and personal friendship with the Secretary of State for education.

One day in late September, following the summer recess, Hannah bumped into the Secretary of State in the commons lobby.

“Ah Miss Philpott,” he began. “I have been looking into your concerns about the decline in behavioural standards in our Schools. My friend, the Right Honourable member for Cumberland and the Lakes, has a very interesting school in his constituency. They have a unique approach to discipline. Perhaps we can arrange for you to go up there for a few days on a fact finding trip.”

*         *         *

Mr Lane looked again at the House of Commons headed letter. He felt honoured that a member of the cross-party education committee would want to visit Queen Anne’s on a week-long fact finding mission. He had spoken to his old friend who was the local MP and had arranged an interesting timetable for the young visitor. He scanned through the letter that had been sent from his friend’s secretary checking that all the preparations for the visit were correct and that he had not missed any details.

His thoughts were interrupted by the harsh buzz of his office intercom.

The speaker cracked into life. “There is a Hannah Philpott MP to see you, headmaster.”

Mr Lane stood up before he pressed the reply button.

“Very well, Miss Booth, send her in please.”

The large dark varnished door opened and Hannah walked confidently into the room. she was wearing a grey trouser suit with a pink blouse.

“Welcome to Queen Anne’s, Miss Philpott,” began Mr Lane. “I understand you have a keen interest in restoring standards of discipline to our state school system. I hope that your visit will be an informative one. Please take a seat.”

Mr Lane and Hannah Philpott sat in the large leather armchairs in the study while Mr Lane explained the schools approach to discipline. Mr Lane then outlined what was in store for Hannah in the coming week.

“Your colleague and my friend, Andrew Lawley, has suggested you experience life in our school community first hand. I had my doubts at first but now that I have met you I think that once in uniform you would easily pass as one of our sixth form girls. I’ll call our Under-Matron, Miss Patterson, in a moment and she will take you to your room where we have arranged for you to change into appropriate attire.

“In the meantime could you please sign these forms? One is an enrolment form and the other is a parental consent form. You will note we have taken a few years off your age and entered your date of birth as 1997 not 1991. Only I and a select number of staff will know your true identity and why you are here. As for the rest of the staff and pupils, we will say you are on a trial placement with a view to transferring here from you current school. From this moment on we will treat you no differently to any other pupil in our care. I expect you to work hard and respect all our rules and traditions. By the way, have you ever experienced corporal punishment yourself?”

*         *         *

Hannah looked at herself in the mirror of the boarding room she had been allocated. She stared at the bare-faced schoolgirl looking back. The Under Matron seemed nice and friendly as she explained the rules to her.

“Please clean off all your makeup and put your clothes in this box. You are only allowed a watch and a single pair of stud earrings, so the rest of you jewellery goes in the box too. It will be locked up in Matron Taylor’s surgery so it will be quite safe.”

Even though Hannah had attended an all-girls school, the Queen Anne uniform was quite unfamiliar to her.

“Like Malory Towers or Hogwarts,” she thought, smoothing down the navy blue gym slip that covered a crisp white blouse. The thick black stockings and ‘Mary Jane’ shoes felt very clumpy and heavy compared to her usual choice in designer shoes.

With that there was a knock at the door and Under-Matron Tara Patterson entered carrying a straw boater and school blazer. She looked Hannah up and down with a critical eye.

“I would sort that tie if I were you, Philpott,” said Tara in a firm bit friendly way. “I once got a dose of Matron’s strap for wearing mine like that. Oh, and I hope you are wearing school knickers too? You would be surprised how many don’t and regret it when there is uniform inspection. Here is the finishing touch; your hat and blazer. Don’t get caught outside without them, will you?”

Hannah spoke. “Thank you Miss, or is it Matron? I have been looking at the rules that Mr Lane gave me. They all look fine and straightforward, but what’s the difference between curfew and lights out?”

Tara replied: “We female staff are addressed as Ma’am and never Miss. It’s only Matron Taylor who is usually addressed as Matron. Right, Curfew is at 21:00; it’s when you should be back in your boarding block ideally in your room or in the bathroom getting ready for bed. If you have a radio or any sort of electronic device such as a laptop then that’s when it must be turned off. Lights out is 21:30 and put simply it’s light off and go to sleep. If you are caught out of your room after that without a good reason then it’s four with the strap. Going to the loo is ok though; we are not that strict but go straight there and straight back.”

“Sounds a bit harsh,” quipped Hannah.

“You will soon get used to it. It gives the boarders structure and routine,” smiled Tara. “I like it really. It suits me if I’m not on duty; then I aim to be in bed by curfew. It gives me half an hour’s quiet time with a good book, a nice unwind at the end of the day. Anyhow I digress, it’s time that you met your form tutor for the week, Mrs Rea; she is a good teacher but a stickler for things being just so. I should know, I was in her form many years ago.”

*         *         *

The boarders at Queen Anne’s lived in three main areas. Around half lived in the main school building in communal rooms of six or four occupants, whilst the first years occupied large dormitories in the attic area. Male and female accommodation was segregated by a dividing wall on all floors known as the Berlin Wall.

The other boarders lived in two 1980s built boarding houses separated from the Main Building. Douglas Jefferson (D J) and Charlotte Jefferson (C J) houses are named after the school’s founding patrons. The boys board in DJ and the girls in CJ. Both houses were identical. They were two story and were built around a central quadrangle. Both had 70 single rooms with communal shower and toilet facilities in the centre. Both buildings were sparsely furnished with only painted block walls inside. Opinion in the school was divided as to whether the school borrowed prison or military barracks blueprints for the construction. Despite having to share rooms, most pupils preferred the main building as an accommodation. It was in one of these single ground floor rooms in CJ house that Hannah found herself staying. The room was simply furnished with just a small single bed, a wardrobe and a desk and chair.

Hannah had two main vices in life; she would admit with some pride to the first, she was a workaholic and a highly driven individual who would often work late into the night without realising the time. The second was one she was less proud of. Since her fifth form year and GCSE exams, she would often resort to reliving her stress and tension by smoking.

Wednesday had been a particularly tough day for Hannah. The academic standards of Queen Anne’s were high and, despite her previous good exam results, Hannah found the lessons very challenging. English literature was her least favourite subject during her own school days and nothing had changed. Mrs Rea had awarded her 500 lines for talking during their study of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’. Hannah was most annoyed by this as she had planned to begin writing her parliamentary report that evening, not writing lines, but she was determined to get it done.

Hannah began to write her report late. It was almost curfew; she took off her tie and itchy stockings and settled down on her bed with her laptop on her knee and began to type. Her hand ached from writing lines, but she was soon engrossed in her work and was oblivious to the noise of the other girls outside in the corridor as they noisily prepared for bed. It was well after midnight when the battery on Hannah’s laptop finally died. Hannah still felt stressed and tense from the events of the day. She needed something to unwind. She fumbled around in her washbag until she found it, her new E cigarette.

“Just a quick vape then bed,” Hannah thought, slipping her shoes on to her bare feet. She didn’t bother to buckle them up as the single door out to the quadrangle was just opposite her room. It was a calm cool September night. Hannah lent against the wall and inhaled, she soon felt calm, relaxed and ready for bed. As she opened the door to go back inside to her room she came face to face with the white starched apron of Matron Taylor’s uniform.

“You had better have a good excuse for being up this late, Philpott,” barked the matron.

“S-sorry Ma’am,” stammered Hannah. “I have been working late on my report and I have just been having some fresh air before I go to bed.”

“That I can see. It’s a pity you chose to pollute it though,” snapped Matron. “Look at the state of your uniform. No hat, no tie, no stockings, shoes unbuckled, scruffy and not what we expect. Don’t you know the rules young lady? And as for this, smoking a very serious matter indeed.”

“It’s an E-cigarette actually,” replied Hannah in a sarcastic voice. “It’s not smoking, it’s vaping, and who can see my uniform at this time of night? Surely it doesn’t matter, does it?”

“And that is a very bad attitude, young lady!” Scolded Matron Taylor. “Vaping or smoking, there is no difference in my book. Both are very foul, filthy habits. I was going to give you six with my strap here and now for the smoking and overlook the uniform breaches but your attitude has just earned yourself a visit to Mr Lane in the morning. He takes a very dim view of any pupil reported to him by me.”

Matron Taylor began writing on her clipboard before she handed Hannah the dreaded pale blue report form.

“You will hand this in to Mr Lane when he asks for them at the end of morning prayers. He will then summon you to his study at a convenient time. Now to bed this instant, get some sleep. I think you will be sleeping a little less comfortably tomorrow night after your audience with the Headmaster.”

*         *         *

Mr Lane held up the blue form and looked very sternly at Hannah. It was three-thirty in the afternoon, Mr Lane’s favoured time for dealing with those who had fallen foul of the school rules.

“So what have you got to say for yourself, Philpott? Not a good day yesterday, was it? Being caught out of your room after lights out, several breaches of uniform, smoking on school property, and talking back to a member of staff, not to mention the talking-to in your English lesson that you have already been punished for. I think that before you worry about changing the behaviour of our nation’s youth you should take a long hard look at your own.”

Hannah stood nervously in front of the head’s large desk, and tried to explain her actions.

“Well, Sir, I sort of lost track of the time. I wanted to start my parliamentary report whist the day’s events were fresh in my mind. And how many more times have I got to say it I was Vaping on an E-cigarette not smoking. There is a difference. As for the uniform stuff, well, it was uncomfortable so I…”

“Stop right there, young lady,” barked Mr Lane. “Matron was right, you have got an attitude problem, one that I soon will be correcting. May I remind you that although debate and argument serves you well in your usually line of work, this week you are in Queen Anne’s and not the Palace of Westminster. Well you wanted to learn first-hand how we maintain our standards so now you are going to find out. Unfortunately for you, due to the shortness of your stay with us, detention or a loss of privileges would be impractical so I think in your case it will be six strokes of the cane. As you are a sixth former it will be with the senior cane, the junior cane is reserved for those in the fourth form or below.”

Hannah looked at the headmaster, dumbfounded. Ever since she was a girl and had read Ronald Dahl’s Biography ‘Boy’ with its descriptions of school caning she had been fascinated by the thought of corporal punishment and the effects that it had on the recipient. In a strange way she felt a pang of anticipation almost bordering on nervous excitement. Her thoughts were interrupted by Mr Lane’s sharp instructions.

“Right, we shall begin. Put your hat and blazer on the hook by the door, then I want you standing facing the wall by the far corner with your hands on your head. You will stay there to think about your actions until Matron arrives to witness your punishment.”

Hannah complied with the head’s instructions and stood by the bookcase to await her fate. The butterflies were starting in her stomach. Was it nervous excitement or fear? After what seemed an age, the study door opened and in came Under-matron Patterson. She was wearing her usual burgundy nurse’s uniform complete with starched white hat.

“Matron sends her apologies, Sir.” She began. “The new intake medicals are taking longer than she anticipated so she has sent me down to witness for you.”

“Very well, Miss Patterson,” remarked the Headmaster. “Right, Philpott, bend over my desk. I am now going to thrash you.”

Hannah moved from her corner and stretched over the large leather desk. As she lay down, Tara lifted the skirt of Hannah’s gymslip and the tail of her blouse clear of her bottom.

“Glad to see you followed my advice about the knickers,” said Tara as she moved around the desk and took a firm grip of Hannah’s wrists, holding them on the edge of the desk.

As Mr Lane went to get the cane from a cupboard at the back of the study, Tara smiled at Hannah in a gesture of support.

“Be brave, Hannah,” she whispered. “It will soon be over.”

Mr Lane took up his position and lightly tapped the cane on Hannah’s tightly stretched navy blue knickers.

“Now, Philpott, we don’t want any unnecessary noise or fuss, do we? If you move or try to rise up without permission you will get extra. Normally I ask the recipient to count their strokes, but seeing as this is your first experience of corporal punishment then that is not necessary for you.

Swish CRACK.

The first stroke landed hard and centrally on Hannah’s quivering bottom. Hannah let out a loud scream. Tara gripped Hannah’s wrists to prevent her moving.

“A little loud, young lady,” scolded Mr Lane. “I have known our first years be more stoical when they are beaten. Much more of that and I’ll be giving something extra to scream about. Do you want penalty strokes?”

“N-no, Sir,” Hannah sobbed. “It shocked me how sharp the pain was. Owww, my bottom is on fire. Arrrh!”

Swish CRACK.

“ARRR,” gasped Hannah as the second stroke landed above the first. Hannah looked up at Under Matron Patterson, seeing Tara’s look of support somehow gave her the strength to carry on.

Swish CRACK, Swish CRACK, Swish CRACK.

Mr Lane delivered three strokes in rapid succession.

“Haaa, Owww ARRRH,” groaned Hannah as she bit her lip trying not to scream out from the intense pain.

“One more to go,” encouraged Tara. Hannah felt broken; she couldn’t take any more.

Swish CRACK.

The last stroke cut across the five other wheals. Hannah lost all self-control and broke down in loud uncontrollable sobs. Tara helped Hanna her to her feet and she stood looking at the headmaster.

“I hope that will mark a change in your behaviour. You are dismissed, Philpott.”

Hannah stumbled out of the study, forgetting to take her hat and blazer. Outside in the corridor, she thrust her hands under her gymslip and tried to sooth her bottom. Tara followed shortly. She tried to comfort Hannah, but Hannah just shrugged her away.

“I’ll leave you then,” she whispered, laying Hannah’s blazer on a chair behind her. “Try not to be late for prep. It may be an idea if you go and see matron after tea.”

“And why would she care?” Snapped Hannah. “I’m in all this pain because of her.”

*         *         *

Sitting through Prep and the evening meal was agony for Hannah. Every movement seemed to irritate the pain in her bottom. Finally, just after 6 pm, Hannah made her way to CJ house. Matron Taylor was standing in the hallway as she entered. Hannah’s heart sank; Matron was the last person she wanted to see right now. The old Matron gestured Hannah to one side. Her manner was motherly and caring, so different from the night before.

“Well, Philpott, I can tell you now that we bare no grudges or malice after a punishment and I hope that you will think the same of us. Incidentally, all Staff who administer corporal punishment or even those who report you for a caning have experienced it for themselves and know the pain it causes. It’s not something that we do lightly.”

Matron handed Hannah a small pot of cream.

“This cold cream should soothe things a little for you. I personally found a bath, then applying the cream, followed by a glass of hot milk and an early night, was the best way to recover from a caning. Others find it helps to curl up and sob for a while. You may wish to ask Under-Matron Patterson for her advice; she has had a little more experience in this field than I.”

Hannah looked at the Matron.

“You were caned at school, Ma’am? And do you think it works as a punishment? It’s certainly made its mark on me.

Matron Smiled.

“Yes, Philpott, I was and I am probably the last female caned by the Royal Navy. Miss Patterson was also a frequent recipient of my strap. It may be painful but it certainly works. Don’t the results speak for themselves?”

The End

© Tara Patterson 2015