Starlingroost Grammar: A Secretary’s Tale

A girl regrets using offensive behaviour towards a teacher.

By Joanna Jones

Mr Roberts, our former headmaster, was someone I kept in touch with long after he retired. About ten years after his retirement we met up at a dinner and we got around to discussing corporal punishment, which, at the time of this story (in the late seventies), was showing the first signs that it may not survive for much longer. Of course, at the dinner in 1990 if I recall correctly, CP had indeed been phased out from government funded schools, and was rapidly diminishing in the private sector too. As a result of those policy changes, those ten years since Mr Roberts’ retirement had seen quite large changes indeed. Personally I was never sure for the better or worse, though now, as I look back (now indeed of course from my own retired state) perhaps indeed it was in the long term for the better, though it was not an easy change at the time.

However, returning to the story, two years before Mr Roberts retired, he rather suddenly chose to stop dealing with the girls and I had always been curious why.

He reminded me of the last two sixth formers to pass through his office. One was a girl called Melanie Wills who, while taking her punishment well, he found the whole thing of a man strapping an eighteen year old woman on her hands just a little uncomfortable. I did not really recall her from all the other females who had crept through that door. However, I remembered the second sixth form girl, Joan Barker, very well indeed, given my involvement.

Using some extra background that Mr Roberts (I suppose all those years later I should call him James here, as he asked me to, but habits remain even now) told me at that same dinner, it is Joan’s punishment I will describe here.

It was May, and the final formal week of schooling before the upper sixth form broke up for the A-level exam period to start, when she arrived with her note, about two thirds of the way through a forty minute period.

Pressing the intercom, the Headmaster indicated he was free and she went through immediately. Almost uniquely she was not in a fearful state, but instead was clearly very irate. Something I suspected would not bode well for her, nor Mr Roberts, during their interview.

And so it proved to be. She was in there for a long time, a very long time indeed – at least half an hour. Most disciplinary interviews tended to last, at most, ten minutes before a subdued boy clutching his bottom or tearful girl cradling her hands came out.

However, even after half an hour it was not the end of the matter. The intercom went to ask me to join them. That was something that had never happened before.

From what I learned recently, and worked out at the time, the interview between Joan and Mr Roberts had been trying. Joan was an intense, forthright character, normally scrupulously well behaved and captain of the school debating team.

She was studying A-level English Literature and had the misfortune to have a Miss Tyler, a teacher with a deserved reputation for being poor. They had been working on their Shakespeare play, Hamlet.

From Joan’s discussion with the Headmaster it was clear she felt that the key points likely to come up in questions were not being addressed by the teacher. She had started asking questions along the lines of ‘What should we say if we get a question along the lines of…’.

The answers she claimed she received were confused. It was now only a very short time before the exams, and Joan rather let her frustrations show, and others in the class began to back her up.

A weak and flustered teacher was beginning to lose control of a small sixth form class. A teacher who reacted by clamping down, demanding silence and went back to parroting off some points she wanted to make, but which according to Joan (and Mr Roberts told me later she was most probably right) were not going to be of much use; either being blindingly obvious to anyone, or points that were not backed up with the examples from the play text that one would need to include in the exam.

When Joan tried to ask Miss Tyler to give examples she could use, the teacher told her to shut up and listen unless she wanted a detention. She also apparently made it clear in rather blunt terms that she felt her to be a disruptive young girl who should learn her place.

Joan apparently let her anger get the better of her, and a few exchanges between the two later led to Joan’s visit to the office, with a note accusing her of calling the teacher: “A b****y useless c**t.”

It had taken most of that half an hour for Mr Roberts to get the girl calm enough to listen to him, and to point out that no matter what the rights and wrongs of that which led up to the situation, she could not use such language and expect to get away with it.

However, there then came the question of punishment. The headmaster was of the view that only a strapping was suitable, as any length of suspension would actually cross into the exam period.

Miss Barker refused to accept that, stating quite bluntly that she was not having her hands slapped when she needed them to write for revision and indeed the exams themselves. Furthermore, she still clearly felt she was being treated unfairly.

The upshot of all this was Mr Roberts phoned her father, who then spoke to his daughter, in what Mr Roberts called uncompromising tones’, no doubt strengthened by the Headmaster having got to the point of mentioning effective expulsion if she did not accept the consequences of her actions.

Finally Joan realised she had no option but to accept the strap.

However, Mr Barker did make it clear that he had reservations about a male member of staff punishing a young woman, and also was unhappy about a strapping to the hands so close to the examination period. In discussion with the Head he made it clear that he had no objection to his daughter having her backside ‘thoroughly thrashed’ (even bare, so he said) by a female teacher. Mr Roberts listened and said he would take his advice on board. Perhaps fortunately, Joan only heard the half of that conversation, so was unaware of the detail in the suggestions her father had made.

It was at this point I was called in. I remember as I entered that the Head looked harassed and even a little exhausted at the battle of wills that had clearly taken place.

Joan, I thought, looked rather cowed, but there was still a resentful look in her eyes.

“Mary,” the Headmaster started. “Joan here has been very rude to a teacher, sufficiently rude indeed that I am left with no option but the strap.”

I must have raised my eyebrows as in six years as his secretary I had never been invited in to his study at such a stage in proceedings.

It was a gesture not missed by Mr Roberts.

“After some discussion with herself and her father, with the forthcoming examinations next week, we agreed it would be best for Joan not to be strapped by me on her hands, but to instead receive her punishment from a female teacher to her, her posterior.

I remember well his hesitation as he sought for a suitably euphemistic term for ‘bottom’ in such company.

“Yes sir,” I replied, wondering still what my involvement was to be.

As he spoke he had been writing a note, which he folded and passed to me before fixing Joan with a cool stare.

A stare returned equally coolly by Joan Barker, who to my imagination seemed rather satisfied, as if she had got away or thought she was getting away with something.

“Miss Barker, you will accompany Mrs Yates to the staff room where, Mary, you will select whichever senior female teacher you think will best make an impression on Joan Barker here about my, no, the school’s, displeasure and give her the note. The note asks that the male staff all depart and that you, Barker, are thrashed ten times with the strap with your skirt raised. Do you understand?”

“In front of all the female teachers, Sir?” She asked rebelliously after a grimaced reaction.

“Yes, young lady, any who wish to watch, as far as I am concerned, and after your punishment you will apologise to Miss Tyler for your dreadful language. Understood.”

Another rebellious look, but eventually she subsided slightly and said: “I understand sir.”

“Good!” And with that Mr Roberts went to his desk drawer and extracted his strap.

The impact on Joan Barker was dramatic.

“No way! No bloody way!” She exclaimed as she stared at the thick strip of leather I had been given. “That’s the boys’ strap; I, I’m a girl!”

I now understood her previously rather cocksure demeanour. She had thought to get away with the rather light strap to her bottom, and was now realising otherwise.

Mr Roberts, meantime, had had enough of Joan Barker for one day, as he stood and leant on his desk towards her and raised his voice.

“No, young lady, it is not the strap for boys. It is the strap for behinds, and this, this is the strap you will be punished with. And I will not have you swearing in my office either. You are now up to twelve on your pants and if there is any more nonsense I will take your father’s advice and request the teacher thrash you with your underwear down! Do you understand?”

“But…” She started.

She was interrupted immediately as he waved the heavy strap towards her.

“Last warning, Barker. I said, do you understand?”

This time she hesitated, rather transfixed by the two foot long piece of thick undivided leather now in front of her eyes. Suddenly she gave a sniff and a tear tracked out her eye.

Finally cowed she replied quietly: “Yes sir!”

With that Mr Roberts retrieved the note from me and in front of her nose adjusted the number from ten to twelve. He then looked at her balefully before adding a comment that if Miss Barker was disobedient in any way the teacher had his authority to administer any remaining strokes of the punishment ‘to the bare’.

Joan looked utterly horrified as he did so.

“It is now up to you to control yourself, young lady. Understand?”

Joan nodded as she muttered the affirmative.

“Right,” he said as he handed the note and strap to me. “You’d better get off to the staff-room. There are only ten minutes to the interval and I cannot imagine our male members of the teaching staff being happy to have their afternoon tea or coffee in the corridor outside.

Joan gave a sort of stifled sob as she finally realised that in ten minutes she would near certainly be the less than proud owner of a very sore bum.

The strap was surprisingly heavy in my hands.

It was difficult to feel sorry for the girl who had certainly made things worse for herself. Okay, she was no doubt very stressed by the forthcoming examinations, but so were the best part of a hundred others in the school.

The walk down the corridor was quiet, as Joan reluctantly scurried to keep up with my brisk pace down the corridor.

All too soon for her, I was briefly knocking on the staff room door and then we were inside. Seven women and six men were enjoying their period off, though some were clearly doing some marking as they chatted around the soft chairs that were scattered around the room. The mild fug of cigarette smoke pervaded the room, being the only place inside the building where smoking by staff members was accepted.

They all looked in surprise as I entered with a clearly upset and nervous Miss Barker trailing behind.

With everyone having turned to look and eyes already being raised at the sight of the leather in my right hand, I needed to make a decision. Of the seven women, only three had sufficient experience to be called ‘senior’ and of them, Mrs Appleyard, was in the minority who vociferously opposed corporal punishment. That left Miss Tomkins and Mrs Miles. While, as head of Biology, Mrs Miles was the more senior, Miss Tomkins, deputy head of Music, was slightly older, and she was well reputed to wield a mean slipper to a skirt in the detention class (traditionally segregated), the only place an ordinary teacher was normally able to physically chastise a pupil.

I made my choice and approached Miss Tomkins saying: “Mr Roberts asked me to give this to a suitable senior teacher. Do you feel able to carry out its instructions?”

I watched her eyes widen in surprise as she perused the note quickly, then flick towards Joan Barker as a wicked smile played on her lips.

Of course the rest of the staff common room had their attentions fixed on her, and Miss Tomkins chose to play to the audience, deciding to read the note out loud:

Miss Barker, has chosen to behave very rudely to a teacher, including using some extremely foul swear words in the process. After some discussion she has finally accepted that such language has no place in our school, especially when directed at a teacher.

However, Miss Barker has expressed a desire not to be punished on the hands, and also not by a man. As a result I would be grateful if you could administer twelve firm stokes of the strap to remind her to behave, with her skirt up. At her father’s request you may, if she causes further trouble, administer any remaining strokes to her bared posterior. I would be grateful if all men in the staff-room would temporarily vacate it while Miss Barker is punished.

Signed J.W. Roberts.”

There was more than one gasp as this was read out, and more than one sniff from the now clearly mortified Joan Barker, who was having difficulty in taking her eyes off the strap still in my right hand.

Miss Tomkins put the note on the table and said: “Gentlemen, if you could all briefly go outside, I will be as quick as possible.”

The men slowly got out of their chairs and ambled out, taking a good look at Joan’s miserable countenance on the way. Meanwhile, Miss Tomkins took the strap from me and held it at either end, noting its flexibility and weight.

Joan had kept her eyes miserably to the floor, unable to look at the teachers leaving or indeed those staying, all of whom, bar Mrs Appleyard (who had pointedly left with the men), were clearly watching with more than a degree of curiosity at the events unfolding before them.

The moment the door closed Miss Tomkins moved things along.

“Right young lady, blazer and skirt off, and be quick about it if you want to keep your knickers up!”

Seven women, including myself, watched the sniffing girl put her blazer on the back of a chair, then slip her black leather school sandals off. She closed her eyes as she put her hands behind her to unclip, then unzip, the tight fitting navy sixth form skirt, then carefully wriggled it over her hips and finally down to her ankles. Another tear glistened on her cheek as she stood up to fold it neatly onto the back of the chair, on top of her blazer.

Before she had time to really consider her predicament at having to parade in her plain white cotton underwear in front of so many women, she was ordered over the back of the sofa and told to get her head right down.

Not being the tallest of girls, she had to stand on her toes to do so and the effect was to stretch that pair of fairly high cut knickers very tightly over her bottom.

Miss Tomkins gave a gently tug at the waistband causing a last ruggle to disappear, and indeed causing a little more bottom flesh to appear from under the leg elastic. Joan gave a little moan, but had the wisdom to stay still with her head buried in an old cushion on the sofa seat. It was clear any lower strokes would land at least in part on bare flesh, but she knew if she caused any trouble Miss Tomkins was the sort of teacher who would have the white cotton, with its hint of lace around the edges, down to her ankles before she could screech a: “Please, No!”

We all had a brief moment to appraise the sight of the eighteen year old girl in white knee socks and knickers, now being the highest point of her body, waiting submissively for her whacking. A further audible, though muffled, sniff showed that the one-time rather too forthright Joan Barker was in an altogether different frame of mind now. No doubt she was very much regretting her loss of composure in Miss Tyler’s English Literature class.

Splat!

The strap had been raised then arced down rapidly onto the target.

Despite the partially immobile state, a shudder went though Joan’s body as she grunted.

About ten seconds later a second blow arced in, this time landing lower and leaving a red mark on her right rump as the end bit into bare flesh. A louder grunt escaped from the sofa depths.

Miss Tomkins was not holding back and on the fifth stroke, sufficiently low to land mostly on bare flesh at the base of her bottom, Joan gave a screech for the first time. At one of the junior teacher’s furtive indications, I moved slightly round to see her knuckles now almost white as they gripped the cushion into her face.

Splat!

The sixth was low and given such that the tip of the strap landed on the nearer left rather than right buttock. The shock of pain caused poor Joan to buck up slightly as she screamed before settling back into position. She was now audibly sobbing into the cushion.

Those sobs and screams got only louder as the next three strokes blistered her bottom. Quietly moving back to behind the girl I could see that those areas visible below her knickers were all now bright red, with marks visible where the edge of the strap had made an impact.

On the tenth blow Joan’s limit was reached. With an almighty scream she somehow managed to struggle up before being stopped, then begged for mercy as she cradled her outraged bottom.

Miss Tomkins was having none of it.

“How dare you girl!” She screeched at the sobbing eighteen year old. “Get back over that sofa now, you still have two to go.”

She enforced her demand by physically pushing poor Joan back into her ignominious position, pushing her upper back down until her head was hard into the cushion she had let go of. Then she grabbed the top of the white cotton knickers and said: “This time without these.”

To a desperate squeal from Joan, the knickers ended up around her ankles, revealing her already well reddened backside to gasps from the other teachers and myself.

“Now stay there till I tell you you can get up,” demanded the music teacher and then cracked in a vicious eleventh blow on the bare cheeks. Fortunately, despite a desperate scream, poor Joan stayed in place.

One further blow and with accompanying screams later it should have been over, but poor Joan forgot the instruction not to move till she was told. She was sobbing pitifully as she was forced back again to get the final blow repeated, causing yet more marks to decorate her bright red and becoming blotchy bottom. I was unsure if Miss Tomkins technically had the authority to give that extra, but nobody was stopping her.

Finally she was able to stand and rub her bottom. In that first moment all thoughts of modesty were forgotten as her dark brown triangle of hair was exposed to all of us.

However, Miss Tomkins did not give her long before telling her to be quick about getting dressed; there were colleagues waiting to return after all, and the interval bell was also near.

Snivelling, Joan slowly raised her knickers back and staggered over to the chair to retrieve her skirt, which took her quite some time to struggle into.

As she was retrieving her blazer, the door was opened to allow the men in, all gazing openly at the miserable girl in front of them. As the bell went I told her to wait in the corner till Miss Tyler came down so she could apologise. A brief flash of anger seemed to cross her, but she was far too sore to contemplate arguing and instead nodded through her tears.

Five minutes later she sobbed out: “I am sorry, Miss Tyler, for the language I used towards you in class.”

The teacher rather smirked as she accepted it and rather vindictively watched the tear-stricken girl escape to no doubt find a toilet or other quiet corner to sob out her misery.

I meanwhile retrieved the strap and returned it to Mr Roberts, informing him that Joan Barker had been well chastised, and had apologised to the teacher concerned.

For that teacher it proved to be rather a pyrrhic victory. The results from her class as a whole were as bad as (if not worse than) Joan Barker’s comments had led the Head to fear they would be. As a result she found herself given the least important classes in future and an eye was rather overtly kept on her performance which, with the larger junior year classes, was as much a case of her not only struggling to teach, but to also actually keep order. It ultimately led to her resigning when she got married a year and a half later. Which, as Mr Roberts told me on hearing the news, was an excellent retirement gift for him to give to his successor.

As for Mr Roberts, there may have been another girl or two strapped on her hands before the end of that term; I do not really recall. However, at the beginning of the new school year in September he announced that in future any girl due corporal punishment would be sent to report to Miss Tomkins in her Music room on the first floor at the interval following, something that was relief to him, and certainly appeared to satisfy the music teacher to as she ‘tested the acoustics of her room’ with a brand new strap of her own whenever required. As for the pupils, I got the impression those girls who tended to get into trouble were less happy with the new regime than the old. Certainly a few ‘regulars’ to Mr Roberts’ office suddenly managed to control their behaviour far better after a first session, if you pardon the irony, literally ‘facing the music’ so to speak.

The End

© Joanna Jones 2014


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