Corpun file 20905
Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh, 4 January 2009
Sex discrimination laws prevented ban on the belt for girls,
By Kate Foster
EARLY moves to ban teachers from giving girls the belt
at school were thwarted by sex discrimination laws, newly
released government papers reveal.
National Archives of Scotland documents also show Scottish
education officials feared a move to ban the belt altogether
would be met with "violent opposition" from teachers.
The documents, dating from the late 1970s -- ten years before the
belt was banned -- were kept secret for 30 years and reveal that
sex discrimination laws of the time prevented a reprieve from
corporal punishment for girls.
Click to enlarge
The leather strap, also known as the Tawse, or the
"Lochgelly" after the town in which it was
manufactured, was regularly administered to the palms of pupils,
and thousands suffered the indignity of a whack from the teacher
in front of the class.
Although it was eventually banned in 1987, early moves to outlaw
the punishment more than a decade earlier met with massive
opposition from Government officials.
A possible ban was proposed in a House of Lords private members
However, despite the fact that the then Secretary of State for
Scotland, Bruce Millan, believed it was not an appropriate
punishment for girls, new sex discrimination legislation of the
time prevented ministers from changing the law.
A letter from the Scottish Education Department dated July 8,
1977 explains the problem: "The Secretary of State felt that
girls should not receive corporal punishment. Education
authorities must comply with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
When these provisions were being enacted, ministers did not want
to have the subject of corporal punishment in schools raised in
debate and therefore decided that rules relating to the corporal
punishment of children should not be exempted.
"Any rules which provide that boys should receive corporal
punishment where girls do not would be illegal.
"The Secretary of State for Scotland did not agree with
corporal punishment for girls but could not say so because of the
Sex Discrimination Act. The Secretary of State felt strongly that
girls of any age should not receive corporal punishment."
An earlier memo from the Scottish Education Department, dated
November 19, 1973, states the Government's view on corporal
punishment in general.
It says: "There does not appear to be any good reason for a
switch of policy in this matter. The desirability of eventually
eliminating corporal punishment is generally accepted and there
has been a gradual reduction in its use.
"But there is no evidence of a widespread demand among
education authorities, parents or others that it should be
summarily stopped before alternative measures to help keep
discipline in the worst cases are available, and there would
undoubtedly be violent opposition from the teachers'
The exchange of correspondence was in response to a Protection of
Minors Bill which had just been introduced to the House of Lords
by Lady Wootton of Abinger. Had it been successful, it would have
meant the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and
During its reign the belt was a commonly used weapon to keep
order in classrooms. In 1980, a study by Edinburgh University's
Centre for Educational Sociology, conducted among 40,000
school-leavers, showed that only one in 20 boys went through
secondary school without getting the Tawse.
The Tawse used in Scottish classrooms was produced by Lochgelly
saddler John Dick, which was the sole supplier to schools.
It came in an array of sizes, including light, medium, heavy and
extra-heavy, with the two-tail heavy being the most popular among
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