I attended a mixed comprehensive school in the 1980s in the home counties. Corporal punishment was still used back then, mainly the slipper when detention or writing lines was considered not enough for the offence. The cane was also used, but only by the headmaster or deputy headmistress.

Once, a number of us, boys and girls, were mucking around after lunch. The boys tried to lift the girls’ skirts and the girls tried to pinch the boys’ bums; nothing serious but not considered proper behaviour by the prefect that caught us. I think we were all around 14-years-old at the time. We expected to get detentions, then served on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after school. Unfortunately, this prefect, known to be a bit of a prig, decided to report us to our form mistress, who them spoke to the headmaster. The upshot was, the boys were to get four strokes of the cane from the headmaster and the girls were to get four strokes of the slipper from the deputy headmistress. Sex equality wasn’t much heard of back then.

At 4.00 pm when the bell sounded for the end of school, our form mistress, Mrs F sent us four boys to the headmaster’s office, telling us to leave our coats and bags on our desks. The three girls were told to stay in the classroom with Mrs F. As we started out down the corridor, we were passed by the headmistress who was arriving at our classroom with a large blue and white plimsoll in her hand.

We soon got to the headmaster’s office and one of us knocked on the door. We heard a call for us to go in, and the headmaster was waiting for us with cane in hand and his desk cleared of everything except for a telephone and a wooden tray which had been pushed to one end.

We stood in line for what felt like ten minutes while he lectured us on the proper way to behave. Then he called for one boy to step forward. Everyone hesitated, so I took a couple of paces forward, thinking it was best to just get it over with. I was told to bend over his desk, which I did with my head resting on my forearms. I felt him fold up the tail of my blazer and immediately worried that keys, coins, a pen-knife, some sweets in a bag and other schoolboy paraphernalia might spill out all across his desk.

Nothing did fall out, though, and the next thing I knew was the cane tapping the seat of my trousers. Then that stopped and within a moment or two the cane whacked down causing an immense stinging pain right across my backside. It was really quite painful and much worse than getting the slipper. Three more strokes whipped across my backside and then I heard him telling me to get up. I was sent back to stand in the line, which I did while rubbing my bottom quite vigorously.

The other three boys each took their turn across the headmaster’s desk. I watched, but was more interested in trying to soothe my own pain. Then we were told to return to our form room, collect our things and get off home. I doubt he took more than five minutes to cane all four of us.

We were quite subdued as we walked back along the corridor. When we reached our form room, two of the three girls were waiting for us. As we left the school, the girls were complaining how much the slipper had hurt their bottoms. Mrs F had watched as the deputy headmistress made each girl gather their uniform pleated skirts around their bottoms and then lean over a school desk. The girls said the large plimsoll had meant it impacted with most of their bottoms and claimed getting the slipper from the deputy headmistress was worse than being what we got. They should have felt the cane! Then they wouldn’t have felt so hard done by.

HW