Evening News, London, 23 November 1948
'No More Caning'
Five Smarting Girls Sang a Hit Song
"Evening News" Reporter
Brentwood, Essex, Tuesday.
MOLLY and Freda (pictured left), Kathleen, Edna and Sylvia - the "Herongate Girls" - are on strike from school and they say, nothing short of forgiveness and the promise of no more caning will get them back again.
All of them have played truant, with their parents' consent, for almost a week, and every day, instead of catching the special bus that should take them from their homes at Herongate to the Brentwood Senior School, three miles away, they wave to their school friends as the bus goes by.
Molly Abbott, aged 12, and Freda, aged 14, are sisters who live in a council house on the Ingrave-road. Kathleen Turner, nearly 15, lives next door. Edna Lee, aged 13, and Sylvia Austin, aged 13, both live about half a mile away.
Nearly three weeks ago the "Herongate Girls", with most of the girls on the special bus, were singing "Roll out the Barrel" and "Run, Rabbit, Run" and other songs on their way home.
The bus conductor and the driver joined in and enjoyed the sing-song. "But Dawn Bloomfield, our prefect, reported us," said Molly to me today.
"Two days afterwards Miss James, the headmistress, sent for seven or eight of us and gave us the cane. Dawn was not at school that day, but when she came back three of us - including me - hit her. I pulled her hair for being a tell-tale.
"Her sister went to the school and told Miss James. Then eight of us were put on the stage in the hall and Miss James caned us in front of all the other girls in the school. We ran home and I haven't been back to school since."
Mrs. Abbott, Molly's mother, said: "I don't think it's fair that the headmistress should cane the girls for such a simple thing as singing on the bus." Mrs. Turner, Kathleen's mother, told me that her girl had only six weeks or so to remain at school, before she was due to leave.
"I would have taken her back to school today but her cousin told me yesterday that Miss James had paraded them before the whole school and from the stage told them that she had not finished with them yet.
"According to Kathleen's cousin, Miss James said that when they go back they will either be expelled or caned again. Kathleen won't go back now."
At the school Miss James was "not present" when I called, but had left a message that she did not wish to make any comment.
Evening News, London, 1 December 1948
Don't Spare the Rod
AFTER reading your report about three schoolgirls who went on strike after being caned, I took a vote among the 300 pupils of my own school - a High School for Girls - to see how many were in favour of being caned (we are all liable here to such punishment).
Result: 291 in favour of caning, as opposed to other forms of punishment; nine against. All but eight of the girls said that caning was the mode of punishment in their homes. - (Miss) J.T. (head prefect, aged 18), Surrey.
Evening News, London, 16 December 1948
Traces Of Smiles As Headmistress Caned Them
Girl Strikers 'Were Like Amazons'
Attack on prefect story
A STORY of girls who were alleged to have behaved "more like Amazons than schoolgirls" was told at Brentwood, Essex, today, when four parents were summoned for failing to make them attend school.
The girls had been on strike for a month from Brentwood Secondary Girls' School as a protest against an alleged caning for singing in the school bus.
The parents were:
Roderick George Austin, of Barrack-row, Herongate, in respect of his daughter Sylvia, aged 13; James Henry Abbott, of Herongate (Molly and Freda, aged 12 and 14); Oakley Turner, Herongate, (Kathleen, 14); and Albert Lee, Blacksmith's Cottages, Herongate (Edna, 13).
Mr A. Morgan, prosecuting for the Essex Education Committee, said complaints had been made to the headmistress, Miss James, that some of the pupils had been excessively boisterous in the school bus. She brought this to the notice of the girls and told them that singing or noise in the bus distracted the attention of the driver.
Prefects were appointed to maintain order on the buses, and for a period the singing ceased. Later it burst out again on the Herongate bus and several girls were caned by the headmistress.
Apparently there was some feeling among the parents of the girls, and on November 8, when a prefect left from the bus, the girls dragged her across the road and set on her in a ferocious manner.
The girls were caned before the school for what, it was submitted, was a grave breach of discipline. From that day the girls had been absent from school.
Inquiries from the parents only resulted in continuous obstruction, and two parents, Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Lee, visited the school and were extremely abusive to the headmistress.
Mr. Morgan said that each time the headmistress administered a stroke of the cane, Miss James would say there were no tears - in fact there were "traces of smiles" on the girls' faces.
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