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Daily Sketch, London, 11 January 1955
Teacher was right the day she caned all 3B
Punishment did them no harm, says judge
MISS AUDREY MARGARET JEFFS, the 23-year-old teacher who caned a class of 38 boys and girls with a blackboard pointer, won her appeal yesterday against a conviction for assault.
She was fined £1 and ordered to pay £5 5s. costs by the Northampton borough magistrates last November on a summons alleging assault on a nine-year-old girl.
But yesterday Miss Jeffs heard the Northampton Recorder (Mr R.E.A Elwes, Q.C.) say this of the day her class were naughty at Stimpson-avenue primary school:
"Indiscipline reigned on the class that day."
"I conclude that what Miss Jeffs did was not excessive punishment.
"Her own evidence was not the most helpful part of the case. Miss Jeffs was reluctant to admit that she got a sense of exasperation. I would have preferred her to say that at once.
"There is nothing discreditable to a young teacher to find after a long day with a class of 38 mixed children of nine that it has become rather hard to bear when they have become rather disorderly.
"This class had been for some time very disorderly and hard to control and that she had tried other means to bring them to heel.
"It was regrettable this prosecution was launched.
"All the parents worked themselves up into a state of great excitement.
"These schools, with enormous classes and overworked teachers, have certain difficulties in the discharge of duties which we all accept are very important.
"Sensible parents had to realise that indiscipline at school was often at the root of troubles which were much more serious later."
"It is a great mistake for parents to believe teachers may handle a child severely because they don't like the child or the teacher is hard of character - the child may well need the correction."
Of children who gave evidence the Recorder said:
"They were children of whom their parents might well have been proud.
"It must have been an ordeal for them. They gave their evidence with candour and truthfulness."
Mary Elizabeth Hazell, of Derby-road, Northampton, her flaxen hair held in a pink clip, and wearing a blue trench coat, whispered the oath after the clerk.
Mary, the girl named in the summons on which Miss Jeffs was fined, said she was struck four times on the back of the knee.
Answering Mr. A.E. James, for Miss Jeffs, the girl agreed that the class had gone on talking when they had been warned. They had been "playing up" Miss Jeffs.
Miss Jeffs said Class 3B were noisy all day. She made them sit with their hands on their heads and still they talked.
So she caned them one by one, just a light tap, the girls on the legs, some of the boys on the bottoms.
After the result Miss Jeffs said: "But for the grace of God many young teachers all over England could find themselves in the same condition as I was. I shall carry on teaching."
Follow-up: 18 February 1955: Miss Jeffs can't use cane
Sunday Pictorial, London, 16 January 1955
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