The headmistress of a high school receives an unwelcome visitor

By Angela Fox

The navy S-Class Mercedes Saloon car pulled through the gates of the Dene Bank High School, Gloucester, and drove to a spot in the teachers only car park marked ‘Dr L Monroe, Department of History’. The middle-aged, raven-haired driver of the car reached across to the passenger seat for an expensive attaché case and exited the car. The fact that she was not the good Dr Monroe didn’t seem to bother her one bit, though it caused three school girls, who seemed to be idling by the main door, to grin and make some giggled remarks. Their giggling ceased, however, as the tall, very erect woman in the dark blue pin-striped business suit with the narrow skirt that rode just an inch above her knees, scowled at them as she clicked-clacked by in her five-inch heels. She was walking as easily as if she had been shod in plimsolls.

The woman made her way through the rather grand entrance, up a wood-panelled staircase where she came to a mahogany-panelled door labelled ‘School Office’. She didn’t bother to knock and barged straight in. A secretary in her early fifties looked up from her computer screen in surprise, taking in the visitor in a single glance.

She was just about to challenge the woman when the visitor said, “Good morning. Lady Cecelia Barrington-Smythe to see Miss J Weatherall, the headmistress. Will you please notify her that I am here?”

She thrust a business card into the seated woman’s hands, staring down on the bemused secretary.

“Does she know you are coming? Miss Weatherall only sees visitors by appointment and she is very busy. She is currently on a conference call and I have instructions not to interrupt her until the noon break.”

Lady Barrington-Smythe didn’t even blink, but with a rather nasty smile replied: “If you look at the card you will see I am one of HM Inspectors of Schools and, in fact, I come directly from the Ministry of Education. We do not make appointments for inspections. What would be the point? I have a busy schedule involving several other schools and Miss Weatherall will see me now or she may not be the headmistress of this school much longer! I believe she will understand, so I advise you to run to her office and make her aware of my presence.”

Suddenly one of her dark blue enamelled nails on her left hand seemed to hold more interest for her than dealing with the flustered secretary. The secretary was in half a mind to challenge the inspector but, realising the woman probably had the power to do just as she said, she arose from her chair saying, “Please take a seat. I’ll see if the headmistress can fit you in.”

“Thank you, but I prefer to stand.”

The secretary went to the wood-panelled door to the right of her desk and, after knocking twice, went on in.

“I thought I told you that I wanted no interruptions, Mary. No exceptions!” came a voice from the inner sanctum.

“I’m sorry Miss Weatherall but…”

The door closed blocking further sound from the headmistress’s study.

Thirty seconds later, the door opened again to reveal a diminutive woman in her mid-forties dressed in a light blue shirt dress with bob-cut light brown hair, clearly upset at being disturbed.

“I am sorry, as my secretary explained I cannot see you now. I am on a conf…”

The Lady Cecelia looked up from studying her left hand and down at the headmistress with a smile that was anything but friendly.

“I am sure your phone call is important, but so is the reason for my visit. I am sure you know I have the power to shut this school down if I suspect that its pupils are not being properly served. May I politely suggest that you end your phone call immediately? After I leave, you will be free to resume your call. Unless, that is, you would rather I call the ministry?” She left her threat hanging.

The headmistress appeared to re-evaluate her position.

“Err, no. That won’t be necessary. Please come in.” She held the door open wider.

The secretary almost cowered as she made her way past the formidable Lady Barrington-Smythe and out of the door to the safety of her own desk.

“Please take a seat,” said the headmistress, waving in the direction of a chair in front of her desk, “while I just extricate myself from the telephone.”

Miss Barrington-Smythe ignored the preferred chair and instead went to sit in a luxurious soft padded armchair, one of two on either side of a comfortable settee.

“I am afraid something urgent has come up,” said Miss Weatherall into the speakerphone, “I shall have to call you back.”

A muffled assent could be heard and she pressed a button on the telephone.

“Very well, Ms Barrington-Smythe. What can I do for you? That was a very important telephone…”

“Yes, I am sure it was, and it is Lady Cecelia Barrington-Smythe.”

“I’m sorry, my Lady. Oh, wait, a relation to the Minister of Education, Lord Stephen Barrington-Smythe?”

“Indeed, my husband! However, as I am sure you are aware, the new government, of which my husband is a member, was brought to power in part on a mandate to do something about the terrible state of education in this country. For the last twenty years, we have been producing almost illiterate adolescents with no respect for their teachers and little work ethic. The country is suffering because of it. Even our universities are suffering from an inadequate supply of well-focused talent, and Britain is falling into decline. A large part of this social decline is now understood to have been the result of liberal thinking on corporal punishment, with its subsequent abandonment based on absolutely no real research. This is now coming to a stop.

“I am here to ensure that this school is following the new guidelines the government published six months ago and, before we start, I have to tell you that we have received several complaints from parents of a few pupils attending this school regarding class disruptions. Apparently, they feel their children’s education is suffering because a few unruly students are causing chaos in the classrooms. They are surprised the new regulations regarding punishments are not being put into effect. I have been sent to investigate.”

“Oh, Miss, err, Lady Barrington-Smythe, I assure you they are. We are working hard to follow all the governments’…”

“Excellent. Then I am sure I can inspect your copies of the C3PM or CPPPM, your Punishment register, and the canes that are in use?”

“Err, C3PM? I am not sure.”

“The ‘Corporal Punishment Practices and Procedures Manual’ issued to every licensed teaching professional. It governs all policies on corporal punishments; the need for it, behaviours that warrant it, how it is applied, documented, the oversight etc, etc. It describes how teachers will themselves be evaluated in its application and how all documents will be furnished to the appropriate authorities on demand? I assume you have read it?” Lady Barrington-Smythe’s tone of voice sounded like she was very sceptical that the woman in front of her had read it.

“Oh yes. Err, that. And you wish to see my copy?” Miss Weatherall was getting very nervous.

“Yes, certainly, I need to see it. And the punishment registers, and the tools you use to inflict such punishments. Every school in Britain has received such. We have records, you know. I can show you them if you like?” She reached for her attaché case.

“No, that won’t be necessary.” Miss Weatherall went to her telephone on her desk, picked up the handset and pressed a button. “Margaret, can you bring in the Corporal Punishment Practices and Procedures Manual, the Punishment Register and my canes? Yes, I need them now!” and she hung up.

The Inspector frowned and started checking her fingernails once again, and an uncomfortable silence persisted for a moment until the headmistress said nervously, “Can I get you some coffee while we wait?”

“Look, Miss Weatherall, I am not here to drink coffee nor socialise. I merely need to reassure myself that you have a proper corporal punishment programme in place and that it is fully in effect. Then I can be on my way. I have many other schools to visit, as I am sure you can appreciate.”

“Well, it does take time to get things organized, you know, and…”

“This school has had six months already. How much time do you suppose long-suffering parents should have to wait before they know their children’s education is not being disrupted in the classroom?”

“Yes, of course, and we have been working diligently and our teachers are getting on board,” began Miss Weatherall, clearly nervous of the imposing woman in her best armchair. She was saved from further excuses when the door opened and her secretary appeared carrying a large book in one hand and several canes in her other.

“Here are your canes, Miss Weatherall, and the Punishment Register. I have sent Veronica to the storeroom for that box of manuals.”

“Veronica?” queried the lady inspector.

“Veronica is the assistant secretary.”

The Inspector looked at the secretary and said, “Please tell Miss Veronica not to bother. The fact that they are not readily to hand is all I need to know. Would you please hand me the register and leave the canes on the headmistress’s desk? You may close the door on your way out.” She waited for the door to close as the secretary hurried out, leaving the headmistress to face the dragon alone.

“So, the manuals that the government has taken so much trouble to provide to every teacher, are still not distributed? Hardly what I expected,” sneered the inspector as she opened the punishment register and flipped through the pages.

Her face looked shocked. “Can this really be? Only two pupils have been caned since the start of the year? One got two strokes for having a meltdown during assembly, and an older girl only got three strokes for attacking a young girl and giving her a cut lip and black eye? Is this for real? What are you running here?”

“Well, there were extenuating circumstances in both cases and…”

“Spare me! This will not do. There can be no excuses for this sheer dereliction of your duties.” She stood up suddenly, tossing the punishment register back on the settee. “Come on, get that cushion from that chair and put it over your desk. I need to see your caning technique!”

Now thoroughly frightened and wishing she had stayed home sick, Miss Weatherall placed the cushion as indicated and looked at the tall fierce woman who was staring down at her.

“Now pick up that senior cane and show me that you are not a frightened rabbit and know how to correctly give a suitable chastisement. Strike that cushion like you mean it.”

Nervously, Miss Weatherall picked up the cane and, feeling terribly self-conscious, lifted the cane and made a desperate stroke towards the cushion.  Probably because she was so nervous, the cane mildly tapped the cushion, rebounded off and the cane flew out of her hand, narrowly missing the Lady Barrington-Smythe and landing in the corner near the window.

“Err, shall I pick it up?” she asked.

“You know, I hardly see the point. However, I suppose I’d be as guilty, as you clearly are, of neglecting my duty if I do not make sure by the time I leave, that you know how to at least cane a cushion.” She shook her head in disgust. “Yes, get that cane now and let’s make sure you do not make an absolute idiot of yourself next time you have to punish someone!”

Miss Weatherall timidly went and picked up the cane. Under the tutelage of the hateful woman, she started practising her swing. Periodically, the tall woman would take the cane from her and demonstrate just how high the cane had to be above her shoulder, how hard and how fast it had to be brought down, how to add some extra ‘punch’ with a wrist flick, and how long to wait between strokes. She made the headmistress practice for what seemed like half an hour until she was satisfied the woman had some inkling of what was involved.

“Have you never been caned yourself, Miss Weatherall?”

“No, never. Corporal punishment was outlawed at my school.”

“Yes, it shows. So, you have no clue as to what it feels like? Pity. Well, I suppose there is no alternative but that you get to see what six strokes feel like.”

Miss Weatherall looked ashen, holding the cane like it was some kind of snake that was going to bite her.

The Lady Cecelia Barrington-Smythe sighed almost in disgust, removed her jacket and stood in her immaculate pristine white scarf-tied silk blouse and looked at the small frightened woman before her. Then she reached for the waist button of her skirt, undid it and slid the skirt down her long thighs and nimbly stepped out of it, enjoying the shock on the headmistress’s face. She hung her skirt over the chair and, standing in her black silk panties and suspender belt, bent over the headmistress’s desk and said, “You had better know that sometime within the next three weeks I shall return. I will expect to see some real progress and there had better be a lot more entries in that punishment register. In the meantime, you will give me six hard strokes with that senior cane, at ten-second intervals, and they had better be good ones. Unless, of course, you want to bend over the desk yourself and find out what it really feels like?”

Ten minutes later, the Lady Cecelia Barrington-Smythe click-clacked her way, back to her car, having spent three minutes in the headmistress’s private bathroom fixing her mascara. She climbed gingerly into her car, feeling the warmth as her bottom made contact with the soft leather seat. She then entered the address of the third school of the five schools she planned to visit that day, into her sat-nav.

As she drove out of the car park, she thought to herself, ‘God, I have the best job in the world!’

The End

© Angela Fox 2019

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