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School Discipline

Smiths Wood query

In the 1970s a story hit the front page of the Sun and the local rags about “Three schoolgirls from Smiths Wood Comprehensive school, Chelmsley Wood, caned by the headmaster for not eating their lunch & leaving the school without permission. ”
I can’t find any mention of this anywhere, and the Sun has no online archive.
On the now defunct Abby’s Forum is a mention by “Anonymous” that “Smiths Wood School – Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham. The Headteacher was a man called Bigland-Gibbins. He caned 3 girls across the backside in the early 1970’s – for truancy, I think. It hit the front page of ‘The Sun’ but there was never any legal action taken against him.”
Does anyone have any further details or information?


I do not have any knowledge of that particular incident but it sounds entirely plausible to me as I was caned on the bottom for leaving the school premises at lunchtime without permission. I think it must have been 1979 or possibly 1980.


Why should there be any legal action taken against him? It might have not been the most prudent thing to do but it certainly wasn’t illegal in the 1970s.


Great to see you back again. Your appearances here, which always produce interesting material, are far too infrequent!


For the benefit of those of our newer readers who are unfamiliar with the Abyss, the post you mention is in this thread. It is interesting to note how thoroughly Sarajane shut down anyone who claimed that girls were ever caned on the bottom by male teachers in that Forum. Over here it is of course claimed by some that Sarajane eventually morphed into Lotta Nonsense via C Nickel. If so I do not think that (s)he was quite as successful in imposing a blanket ban here, hindered as (s)he was by those lengthy unexplained absences when heresy could blossom unchecked.

The most likely person to assist with your query is of course our friend Paul, he of the vast Friends Reunited and associated material archive. But sadly we have seen very little of him lately. How are you progressing with your researches into the unisex CP and other punitive practices utilised by the military wing of 19th century Austrian Empire when confronted by dissent amongst the civilian populations of the occupied provinces as recorded in your thread here . The unfortunate ladies swept up into the repressive Austrian military dragnet would probably have been very pleased to forfeit equality with their male co-conspirators if they could have avoided all that confinement in irons and caning on the bare buttocks.


And no doubt the 20th century Smiths Wood schoolgirls would have had similar sentiments about SCP if the report of the caning practices of Mr Bigland-Gibbins that you instance is true. Must be something about the conjunction of the word ‘Smith’ and geographical features in school names I think. You will doubtless recall your contribution here � regarding the unusual pre-caning requirement allegedly imposed on a girl at Smithills Grammar School, Bolton.


It’s interesting that court cases are mentioned.
There is of course the false argument that bottom caning of girls by male teachers couldn’t possibly have happened as they would have been brought to court. Sheer nonsense of course.
The cases that were brought to court were those where there was something unusual in the case.
Now – I once read newspaper reports of a Headmaster of a private school somewhere round Merseyside who was so charged. His modus operandi was to get the girls to bend over the desk and cane them on their knickers. I distinctly remember one of the sub-headings in the lengthy newspaper article was “Knickers” used in a quote by one of the victims. Sadly I can’t remember the date involved, but I know it was the Liverpool Daily Post.
However – and here is the point I am longwindedly getting to – he was charged with indecent assault. The case argued that this wasn’t just any old caning, this was M&S caning (or is it S&M), he lifted their skirts which was indecent.
BUT – he was acquitted. At exactly the same time a trial for indecent assault was ongoing in London (so presumably Court of Appeal if its judgement was to be influential) whereby an indecent assault case (not related at all to SCP) was turfed out as the judge(s) decreed that for an assault to be indecent there had to be an INTENT of indecency.
This of course is a far different level of proof, particularly in a SCP scenario. A defence of “I wished it to hurt more”, or “I was checking she had no padding” would successfully scupper such charges.
So the case was dismissed. Charges relating to punishment had really to show something beyond normal chastisement – see for example Janet Dines’ case.
I just wish I could find the article(s) (it ran for a few days with the court case).
And I wish I could find the Smiths Wood background.
As far as Austria is concerned I have done more research, but am being lax in posting. Sorry – will try to get it sorted.
There are many more names in Austro-Hungary, and some details of modi operandi in Germany and Switzerland, as well as a couple of interesting school tales.
I will get it all together and when I have a moment will post back on teh Austia thread.
But at present Smiths Wood is intriguing me.


As neilmc32 has observed above the caning of girls on the bottom by male school staff wasn’t illegal in the 1970s. it wasn’t illegal in the 1950s either, when it certainly happened at the Senior School associated with, and on the same site as, the Junior School I attended. However in certain places and at certain times it might have contravened LEA (Local Education Authority) regulations or recommendations. These however were not laws, but matters for internal disciplinary proceedings, though like the Highway Code they could be taken into consideration when actual laws were broken.<


I know quite a bit about Chelmsley Wood – but I’d rather not say how!!!

Smiths Wood school was a rough school in a rough area of Chelmsley Wood, itself a huge, largely council owned, Birmingham overspill estate.

There were six big schools that served the estate. Whitesmore School, Simon Digby School, Smith Wood, Kingshurst School, Park Hall School and the RC School Archbishop Grimshaw.

The cane was certainly used at Whitesmore School. Boys got it across their hands in the lower school and across their backsides in the Upper school. two or three strokes in the lower school but the full six in the Upper. Girls were caned, by a female member of staff, across their hands.

I don’t think Simon Digby used the cane at all and I am pretty sure that, surprisingly, Archbishop Grimshaw didn’t either. Kingshurst certainly caned but I’m unure who got it or how it was done. Park Hall had an infamous Head, now dead, called George Waite (?). His caning exploits were well-known and there is even a story, that was told at his funeral, of him caning the milkman !

Smiths Wood was, like all the others, a big school. It still exists but has been rebuilt as an Academy. The school would have opened, I suspect, in the early 70’s and Bigland-Gibbins was the Head. He was an ex-Army officer and, by all accounts, ran a strict regime. I’d rather not say how I know but three girls were caned, across their knickers, by Bigland-Gibbins in the 1970’s. and it did make the front page of ‘The Sun’



I am sure that Yetanotheranotherlurker will be most grateful to have confirmation of the incident at Smiths Wood School and personally I find the additional background information you have provided very interesting.

I shall certainly not press the point if you do not wish to comment, but do you by any chance have any idea how many strokes of the cane each of the three girls received and why those canings were across the knickers? You say that Mr Bigland-Gibbins ran a strict regime, so the presumption would be that it was perhaps not totally uncommon for girls to be caned by him. Headmasters could get away with a great deal in earlier years. However by the 1970s I think caning girls across the knickers would have been a risky procedure likely to attract external attention, as indeed apparently happened, and therefore not the usual mode of caning. Logically (and I do know that logic is not always applicable to events at school ) there would have been some special reason for Mr Bigland-Gibbins to take that step. An exemplary punishment to deter other pupils perhaps, or a repetition of an offence previously punished by a less severe caning.

Nobody here will press you for information about how you are familiar with the incident I hope, but any further details of the how, when and why of the canings concerned that you may chose to provide will be most helpful.


I’m afraid I can’t help you with any of your questions.

I suspect the year was about 1974 and the fashion at the time was for girls to wear very long skirts. Long enough for them to bend over and be caned over the skirt. It’s not as if the skirt was short enough to ride up and get in the way of the cane. So why they were caned across knickers I don’t know.

I don’t know whether Bigland-Gibbins caning girls was a common occurrence. The caning of girls was not uncommon at another Chelmsley Wood school as I said in my original message – but that was always done by a female and across the hands. I suspect that girls were caned at Smiths Wood! – but who by? – I don’t know!

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