The school cane

I was at school during WW2 and spent a lot of my time, both at home and at school, down the air-raid shelters. It was pretty scary at times but my biggest dread was to get the cane! It’s hard for me to understand that now but it is a fact. Although I was eleven before I actually received a caning, I feared it from an early age. My brother (7 years my senior)and his friends used to tell me tales, probably quite untrue stories, of how the master took a run up the classroom before delivering the whack, and that certainly contributed to my dread of it. The first time I stood in the Heads study (First Form, Grammar), sent for playing truant the day before, and saw him go to a cabinet and select a cane, my heart sank! The dreaded time had arrived! The Headmaster was a very kindly old gentleman and had in fact only recently taken over as acting headmaster so I suppose he wasn’t the typical Head. He actually had me bend over across his knee and used a short stick which I hardly felt. After each stroke he asked me if it had hurt, and being naive I said no. The fifth one stung and I told him so but he only gave me one more, just as stingy but that was the end of my first caning. I sulked around the playing field all lunch time, swearing to kill this old man who had humiliated me by treating me like a kid, not realising how easy he had been on me. The second time however, a year or so later, it was a totally different experience! I got four strokes touching my toes and it was like a knife going through me! I knew then that the cane was everything I had always dreaded and it was a good two years before I earned another dose. I still get a little tingle when I hear the word ‘cane’!

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I received the cane twice during my school days once in 6th grade and once in 2nd form.
My first visit to the head’s office for the cane occurred in 1978 at Boronia Park Public School in Sydney. I was with a friend and we were reading during lunch when two boys decided to throw a ball at me which struck me on my back. Being into sports, mostly hockey, I had no qualms about throwing it back unfortunately the librarian, I don’t remember her name, caught me and gave me and the boy who had thrown it at me notes to take to the headmistress Mrs Joss.
The library sat on top of the administration block so it was a short nerve wracking walk to the offices. The boy, Mark, and I presented ourselves to the office supervisor who told us to sit on the chairs outside Mrs Joss’ office while she took the notes to the headmistress. I only knew of two girls who had been caned, but primarily it was the boys who visited Mrs Joss, girls receiving the cane was a rare occurrence so I did not suspect that I would be receiving it.
It was a nervous wait for Mrs Joss but Mark seemed nervous but not as nervous as I was. Mrs Joss came out of her office and ordered the two of us inside. She had her cane sitting on her desk, it was a straight cane. She scolded us for misbehaving in the library and nearly causing an injury along the lines of potential blindness and then informed us that we would be receving the cane. I don’t think it was Mark’s first experience with the cane but it certainly was for me and I began to plead with her not to cane me. Mrs Joss sent me from the office and I had to wait outside with my hands on my head and nose to the wall.
The administration office was brick so I couldn’t hear what Mrs Joss was saying to Mark, but I did hear the faint swishing of the cane and the cracking sound. Mark received the full six strokes and he emerged with a red face clutching his bottom and rubbing, but he wasn’t crying.
Mrs Joss came to the doorway holding her cane and called me in next. I went in reluctantly and she closed the door behind me. Mrs Joss informed me that I would be receiving four strokes of the cane and she ordered me to bend over and touch my toes. The girls uniform was a short sleeved grey, blue and white checked dress with white knee socks and black leather shoes, aka Bata Bullets, mine had buckles with a tiger paw print on the sole and we wore the navy-blue school knickers (we called them bloomers, or scungees if you were from Queensland). The boys uniform in the warmer spring and summer was grey shorts, with a blue collared shirt and with grey knee socks and black leather shoes.
While I was bending over two feet from her desk she lifted my school uniform up and held the skirt up of my dress up with her left hand. She lined the cane against my bottom and I remember tensing up.
The first stroke landed, initially I didn’t feel the sting but then a line of stinging pain grew as the second stroke landed, I howled and covered my bottom with my hands and I tears rolled down my face. Mrs Joss told me to move my hands, when I didn’t she threatened me with six strokes, so I moved my hands and she whacked me again. I couldn’t jump and rub as she had her hand on my lower back keeping my dress up so I covered my bottom again and she told me to move my hands, I moved them and she whacked me for the fourth time. I don’t know if my punishment would have hurt more had I not worn regular knickers under my school bloomers but the pain was unlike anything I had experienced before and I don’t think Mrs Joss whacked me as hard as she had whacked Mark.
After the fourth stroke she gave me a moment or two to compose myself and she told me to stand up. I lowered my dress and stood ‘at ease’ as she went to the door and called Mark back in.
She told us if we misbehaved in the library again we would receive six strokes of the cane and have letters sent home to our parents. She wrote out notes to give to our teachers explaining why we were late to class after lunch and sent us on our way.
My sixth grade teacher Mrs Kamer scolded me when I returned to class and I handed her the note from Mrs Joss she read it told me to sit at my desk. She had a boy-girl seating arrangment in class to curb misbehaviour and when I winced as I sat down my desk mate Andrew knew I had been caned. My classmates knew after lessons that I had been caned so I did gain a degree of notoriety amongst the boys at Boronia Park but it didn’t last long as three days later two boys in my class were caned for misbehaving during assembly.
That was my first of two experiences with the cane, some of you will not believe me but make of my experience what you will. Thankyou.

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My second caning occurred in 2nd form when my friend Sarah and I were caught truanting (aka. wagging)PE by the school captain at Cambridge Park High School in Sydney’s western suburbs. The school Headmaster, Mr Astle sent us to the mistress for girls, Mrs Childs, with notes saying that Sarah and I were to receive six strokes.
We had to wait outside her office and presented the notes to the office staff who took them to Mrs Childs. She came out immediately and took us into her office.
Mrs Childs lectured us about wagging and informed us that we would be caned. She left her office and borrowed the deputy headmaster’s cane, his name was Mr Petherbridge.
Mrs Childs told me to hold out my left hand, which I did, and she gave me three strokes on my fingertips, after the first stroke I put my hand under my armpit as I had seen the boys do that and she told me to hold out my hand and she gave me the second and third strokes. Next was my right hand and she gave me another three strokes. During Sarah’s caning I kept my hands behind my back and was rubbing them. Mrs Childs gave her three on each hand as well. We were threatened with the cane and a week of after school detention if we wagged again and then we were sent back to PE class with notes from Mrs Childs to the girls PE mistress, Miss Donnellan, explaining what had happened.

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We can deduce from this that cp was administered to both sexes in Australian or at least NSW secondary schools? I remember seeing the feature fim “Puberty Blues” some years ago in which boys at a NSW secondary school were given a hand caning but the girls weren’t. I know that in NZ girls were specifically exempted from cp in state owned secondary schools, but not in private secondary schools and some girls certainly received it.

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Your account certainly seems true to me. Thanks for telling us of your experience.
As a mere male, I am interested to know if you thought caning of the hands was for any reason better or worse than on the bottom. Would you have prefered to have had your bottom caned?
As far as I know where corporal punishment was used on girls in schools, it was usually applied to the hands. I was never caned at school (either hands or bottom), but the very thought of getting the cane on my hands fills me with dread, but not on the bottom, although I would not have LIKED that either. But I am sure that I would have accepted my bottom being caned more than my hands. I think what I am saying is that a hand being caned could cause permanent damage (and I think there have been cases of that!) but one’s bottom being caned is not likely to cause any damage that is permanent, well not physically anyway.
I often wonder what it would have been like to have been caned at school.

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I believe that the caning on my hand hurt more than the caning on my bottom.
As a sidebar there is legislating preventing almost anything on the planet involving human relationships. Just because something is prevented by a piece of writing does not mean that it will not happen. Drink driving is illegal but people still drink and drive.
When it comes to school corporal punishment the same applies. Someone may have actually been spanked over a knee or had their thighs slapped in front of a class. The perpetrators still committed these acts despite rules to the contrary.
Ultimately I was caned on my bottom in sixth grade and on my hands in second form.

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In Australia, the rules on corporal punishment in state schools differed from state to state.

In New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia, corporal punishment could not be legally used on girls over the age of 12 in state schools.

In Victoria, corporal punishment could not legally be used on any girl in a state school.

In Queensland, corporal punishment could not be used on any girl over the age of seven in state schools.

Tasmania allowed girls to receive corporal punishment only in extreme cases of open defiance of a teacher’s authority – and required all such incidents to be immediately reported to the Director General of Education.

South Australia and the Northern Territory had no special restrictions on the corporal punishment of girls.

These rules were not always followed perfectly – but they wouldn’t have been broken that often.

In private schools, there were no legal restrictions on corporal punishment that applied especially to girls – but in practice, girls schools were less likely to use corporal punishment and where it was used, it was generally used far less often than in most boys schools.

Corporal punishment is banned in all state schools in Australia, but remains legal in private schools in Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria. Victoria is currently reviewing all its education laws and it is likely that they will ban corporal punishment as part of that review.

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Laws and regulations usually reflect the attitudes of society. In the days when woman were considered to be delicate child bearers in need of protection from coarseness and roughness many considered corporal punishment of teenage girls quite inappropriate. Regulations governing schools therefore often reflected this view. This was certainly the case in my youth. We all thought it entirely right and proper than boys were caned and girls were not. Anyway, girls just did not do the things that got boys caned. It may have been different in other societies but I have no knowledge of any. Attitudes have changed greatly since.

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Corporal punishment is banned in all state schools in Australia, but
>remains legal in private schools in Western Australia, Queensland, and
>Victoria. Victoria is currently reviewing all its education laws and it is
>likely that they will ban corporal punishment as part of that review.

Why do you feel that they will ban CP at the independent schools in Victoria? Seems that there are still a good number of proponents and fairly prominent, influential ones at that at these schools. With the exception of perhaps one or two school, independent schools have curbed the use of CP dramatically over the last several years. Despite that, I believe that there is a great desire to have the cane as a disciplinary option even if it is used very infrequently or not at all. Why would the state force the issue and engage in this sort of battle when they have lived quietly with CP at independent schools for a number of years.


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Basically I think it’s likely corporal punishment will be banned in Victorian schools simply because we have a Labor state government in Victoria (traditionally opposed to corporal punishment) heavily influenced by the Teachers’ Unions (also traditionally opposed to corporal punishment) that has said it is planning massive reform of Victoria’s Education laws. If they are going to make major changes to the Education Act, I’ll be pretty surprised if they didn’t slip a prohibition on corporal punishment into the Act.

There’s no real pressure for change – but there’s no real pressure for retention either. The state government wouldn’t bother specifically passing a law just to ban corporal punishment, but as they are going to revise the entire Act anyway, I would expect them to change this.

Yes, there are private schools that would oppose the abolition of corporal punishment, but the state governments majority is so large that really doesn’t matter much – and Labor governments historically don’t care about private school objections to their plans anyway. A lot of Labor members would love to render private schools indistinghishable from state schools.

I could be wrong – the state government might decide not to address what is really a non issue – I have heard that the attitude of some government members is that if parents aren’t complaining, why interfere? Hopefully we will know today – they are supposed to be releasing a White Paper outlining their proposed changes today, after a year long review process, which definitely considered corporal punishment.

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I was under the impression that there was a great deal of desire to retain the option of the cane in independent schools in Victoria. I was also under the impression that these schools included The Six and the other 5 affiliated schools. I also thought that these schools had great prestige and great influence on the educational system in Victoria and that Old Boys from these schools numbered greatly among the lawmakers there. No?

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There are some schools that would like to retain corporal punishment – and the Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria said on Thursday that they believe individual schools and communities should be allowed to decide on their disciplinary policies and whether or not they use corporal punishment. So I suppose it’s possible they may decide to fight any moves that do occur to ban corporal punishment.

And if independent schools do decide to fight, they do have a lot of their ex-pupils sitting in the State Parliament on both sides of the House. They might well be able to mobilise some of those people to protect the interests of their old schools. The eleven APS schools, and the similar girls schools, do have a disproportionate amount of political power but I’m not really sure how good they are at using it to deal with a single issue – and I would really question whether or not they’d want to expend political capital on such an issue. It’s not like the government is trying to ban rowing or anything really important.

If they do try and fight it, I’d expect them to do so quietly and behind the scenes. I don’t think this would be something they’d fight a public battle over.

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Based on some private information I have received from a few sources, I actually do think you underestimate the desire of these schools to maintain the option of using CP and the cane in particular. One person close to the situation has told me that while the cane is used infrequently there is a strong desire to maintain it as an available option and that having such an option is an important issue. Another person, also close to the situation, is a very strong proponent of CP and his school is probably the most frequent user. I suspect that both these individuals represent the opposite ends of the spectrum of opinion at independent schools and both, while they may not agree on frequency of use, strongly want the option preserved.

>If they do try and fight it, I’d expect them to do so quietly and behind
>the scenes. I don’t think this would be something they’d fight a public
>battle over.

Which, from what I understand, is exactly what was done the last time CP became an issue. I have read and heard from a number of sources that there is a tacit, quiet agreement that has existed since CP was banned in government schools that independent schools could maintain the use of CP but needed to be discreet and very quiet about it. Seems sort of hypocritical to me. If you are in support of school CP then you should be willing to say it loudly and support your position.

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I have read that there are all sorts of canes that are used to chastise.

What exactly was the dimensions of a typical school cane and how did a junior cane differ from a senior cane? I would assume that these would also differ from a prison cane or even the kind of cane they use judicially in places like Singapore. How much difference in bite is there from one cane to another and is the cane itself as much a variable in the production of pain as other things like force, place where the cane strikes, position of the boy, bare or not bare, etc.

Inquiring Yanks want to know.

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The cane that was used at my school was about three feet long, very thin (about a third of an inch), extremely flexible and had the typical crook handle. I suppose it was a rattan, although I didn’t know the term then. I think the flexibility is what gave it such a capacity for inflicting pain if it was used skilfully. It worked rather like a whip. We were made to bend over the back of a chair, the last six inches or so of the cane were placed across the seat of our trousers, the cane was raised in the air and brought down with a swish and a crack. If you got six strokes (the maximum) the pain was excruciating. The stripes stayed sore for at least 24 hours and were visible for up to 10 days. It was no fun at all.

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No, I haven’t forgotten that and I’m one of the people here who has shared that information in the past. But when I was responding to claims by a female who said she had been caned at a Sydney High School c1980, I referred to the rules that applied at that time. That doesn’t guarantee it did not happen – the rules could have been broken – but the fact the rules changed later on wasn’t really relevant.

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I know that this thread is almost a decade old, but whilst looking online I happened to come across it and I felt the need to share my experience. I was caned once in my entire school career (though at primary school I was slippered more than once), across my palm for smoking. In fact, I hadn’t been smoking, but I was caught with cigarettes that my friend Charlie had asked me to give to another friend on me, and my pleas for redemption weren’t listened to. I attended Ambleside County Secondary School in Surrey, and the year was 1970. My Davies, the headmaster of the time, decided that smoking was beyond the slipper and deserved the cane, and I got two whacks across my left palm. It hurt like hell, but went numb and I couldn’t feel it after a couple of minutes. I touched it after a bit and it was very warm, and it went very red around where the cane landed, but there weren’t any lasting marks. I’m still slightly pissed at Charlie for it all…though the fat old blokes we all are now are hard to compare to what we were in the 70’s.

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Leicester and Leicestershire were certainly not barren territory for SCP in general and caning in particular.  As a young academic in one of Leicester’s tertiary educational institutions one of our former contributors participated in a commission of enquiry into a number of caning incidents in the city’s schools which had given cause for concern.

Regrettably I don’t have details of this, but one incident in I think 1976 which may or may not have been considered has featured here a couple of times.  A number of senior pupils, boys and girls, visited a pub at lunch time contrary to the school’s rules and presumably the licensing laws.  They were caught and the boys were caned.  The girls however were given detention, whereupon they demanded that they be dealt with in the same way as the boys and caned as well.

One report apparently stated that the girls gave the boys considerable vocal support during their canings.  Whether this meant the boys were caned in front of the girls is not absolutely clear.  Be that as it may the girls seem to have pressed their case to be caned rather than given detention very forcefully even if they were unsuccessful and the matter appears to have gone beyond the school to the LEA and attracted the attention of the media.  I am not clear however if this meant that the LEA banned the caning of girls or just that they backed the school in that particular case.

As regards the county they certainly achieved caning notoriety, though not for SCP.  In the late 1970s neighbouring Nottinghamshire reintroduced caning as a punishment for children age 7 to 17 in community homes.  On the bottom over normal indoor clothing for both sexes.  Leicestershire  immediately followed with a similar reintroduction.  In Nottinghamshire few cdhildren were subjected to the caning penalty and they were all boys until November 1980 when a girl aged 15 was caned for absconding.  Notts county council were then dubbed ‘the floggers of Nottinghamshire’ by the media.

Leicestershire however went one better.  When Nottinghamshire again banned caning in community homes in mid 1981 Leicestershire became for a time the last authority to continue the practice and was condemned by no less than the 20 May 1981 edition of ‘The Times’ which under the headline “Caning of girls ‘worse than in last century” opened its report with:

Girls in care in Leicestershire are subject to more severe caning than would have been allowed in either nineteenth century workhouses or the old approved schools, the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment said yesterday.

I did set out to see if I could discover how your Winstanley Secondary School Braunstone cane might have been used.  Alas the web gave no immediate clues and nor did the excellent Forum index here.  Resort to Corpun then followed but unfortunately I was diverted there by discovering that in February 1953 Captain Waterhouse, the then Conservative MP for Leicester South-East, had spoken in parliament to the effect that a sentence of immediate caning would be a very good thing for the courts to have available.

However, possibly suspecting that the caning duty might not be popular with policemen, he suggested that the sentence could be carried out by a  good stout policewoman.  I am sure that he would not have been using the term ‘stout’  in a derogatory fattist sense but would merely have been meaning dedicated to duty.   In that case his idea would certainly have met with my approval, especially when the once regular silly festive season ‘Caned or fined, you decide’ thread came round, as it would have done in a month or so’s time in the good old pre Great Schism days of the Forum that are no more.

Sadly though Captain Waterhouse’s intervention meant I found nothing on either Braunstone or the Winstanley secondary school, so your cane remains an enigma.  Did it look a substantial bottom beating type cane or a fairly small punishment on the hands sort of implement?

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The Winstanley cane was about 3 ft long and about the diameter of a garden cane. I suppose it could have been used for hand or bottom although I disapprove of caning on the hand (not that that makes much difference).

There is reference on the internet to caning at Westcotes School, Leicester, where a correspondent was caned after he punched a lad who had spat in his face. There is no mention of the modus operandi.

Also in Leicester, at Caldecote Juniors, Saint Gary of Lineker was caned a couple of times as briefly mentioned in the Footballers/Celebrities  Caned at School thread. Lineker claims that on one occasion he was innocent, the other was for cheekiness.  Again no details are offered.

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While naughty girls, however deserving, were infrequently caned it would appear by this article just the opposite is true. I have posted this priorly but not in this context. Paddles used at home are lighter than school perhaps because their is less protection. In the states the hairbrush would be more likely used.
Would this article be less likely to appear in a newspaper of a different readership? Tabloids that rely on anecdotes and interviews have gone out of style with the advent of the Internet.

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I really must visit a few museums with SCP artifacts.  I still haven’t got round to visiting a local museum where at one time there was apparently an official Nottingham school strap.  Never heard of the strap being used round here myself, but you live and learn.  And then of course there’s the local galleries of justice museum where somebody told me some time ago you can be strapped down on a birching donkey.  I’m not sure if this is still the case, but I ought to take a look.  I don’t suppose my trousers will have to come down at my age!

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I am still of the same opinion regarding the letters to ‘Parents’ magazine, namely that the magazine had been infested by spankophiles.  It was a not uncommon fate then.  Around the same time the relatively new in the UK  ‘Penthouse’ magazine was carrying amazingly detailed (and I suspect totally fictitious) readers’ letters on flagellatory themes, mostly involving young ladies.

My local rag, the Nottingham Evening Post, also carried lots of similar letters involving school and domestic CP that even the then relatively credulous youthful Another_Lurker tended to think had never happened, though I still collected them.  Indeed, come to think of it I’ve still got a long run of the early Penthouses somewhere which I inherited as last man standing following staff upheavals at the office where I was an articled clerk.  If I ever unearth either the Evening Post stuff or the Penthouses from my prodigious archives and this Forum is still extant I’ll transcribe a few items to give us all a good laugh.

There is a long and (dis)honourable tradition of that sort of thing in the UK.  The 19th century publication The English Woman’s Dometic Magazine, with its extensive and quite probably largely fake accounts of the elaborate school and domestic birchings of girls, and sometimes boys, has often been mentioned here.  The Victorians produced huge amounts of flagellatory literature.

Throughout the years Newspaper and Magazine editors have not been averse to publishing such material, finding it generally an aid to circulation.   Indeed in some prominent cases readers’ letters haven’t needed the assistance of the Royal Mail postal service but have simply been generated by staff at the publication concerned.

The notorious Sunday Telegraph ‘Caned Wrens’ readers’ letters of 2006 about claimed corporal punishment shenanigans in the Women’s Royal Naval Service  were allegedly written by the then editor of the paper, Sarah Sands.  And if indeed she did do the deed she certainly wasn’t the first or the last media employee to try their hand at a bit of CP fiction.