Corpun file 19544
Times Educational Supplement, London, 7 September 2007
"Non-school" stands defiant
An east London institution that permits smacking is posing a
problem for ministers
By William Stewart
A christian "tuition group" is successfully fighting
for its right to give children corporal punishment by arguing it
is not legally a school.
The Government has been trying to bring Tyndale Academy into line
since 2003. But despite two official consultations and 399
letters and e-mails last year alone, it has made little progress.
Officials admitted this week that it would take a new act of
Parliament to force the tiny, six-pupil academy in Forest Gate,
east London, to register as a school.
In the meantime their efforts have had unintended consequences,
sparking fears that home educators, religious supplementary
schools and sports clubs could be subjected to Ofsted
In many ways the saga resembles the unsuccessful campaign by the
Government and Ofsted to make Summerhill, another idiosyncratic
institution, conform eight years ago.
But while Summerhill pupils vote on their own discipline policy,
at "thoroughly Christian" Tyndale, rules are based on
For Ferris Lindsay, the head, that means his primary-age pupils
could be smacked on the palm with a teacher's hand for direct
disobedience or acts they know to be wrong, such as persistent
Children aged five to seven receive a single smack, while eight
to 11-year-olds can get up to three.
He said the smacks "hard enough to register, but not enough
to damage" were more effective than long, drawn out
"It is a small but important part of our discipline, which
also includes stars, and all the other things that make up a
positive approach to behaviour," Mr Lindsay said. The
punishments are meted out only with parents' explicit permission
and through their delegated authority.
A qualified teacher with 24 years' experience, Mr Lindsay said
the sanction had been employed no more than 10 times over the
past academic year.
When asked if it was happy with this policy, the Department for
Children, Schools and Families said violence against a child was
illegal and it encouraged anyone to bring evidence of assault to
Documents show that Ofsted told the department about corporal
punishment at Tyndale in 2004. Mr Lindsay said that no official
had raised the matter with him since.
He set up the academy in 1999, directly after corporal punishment
became illegal in independent schools, expressly because it would
not be classed as a school.
"All we are asking for is the freedom to teach according to
the philosophy set out in the Bible," he said. "We know
we are out on a limb and odd, but we think there should be room
for us to exist."
His case hinges on the official definition of an independent
school, currently an institution providing "full-time
education for five or more pupils of compulsory school age".
Because Government guidance says this means a minimum of 21
hours' tuition a week, Mr Lindsay argues that, by providing only
18 hours or less, Tyndale does not qualify.
An Ofsted visit in November 2004 concluded that teachers gave
consistently good lessons, had good relationships with pupils and
offered a broad and balanced curriculum but that Tyndale was
The Government then told Mr Lindsay to register as a school or
face prosecution and a possible six-months spell in prison or a
He refused and, by November 2005, the department admitted that
Tyndale, which charges £3,000 annual fees, did not meet the
current definition of full-time.
A year later, the Government began consulting on a wider
definition of an independent school. But this was abandoned after
scores of home educators objected, fearing they would be treated
This month, consultation began on another definition of
independent schools, which could finally spell the end for
But because the proposed wording "the main organiser of a
programme of education for children of compulsory age" does
not specify academic education, it could unintentionally affect
religious supplementary schools and sports clubs.
Follow-up: 18 April 2008 - 'Smacking loophole' to be closed
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