Liverpool Echo, 2 March 1981
To beat or not to beat -- that's the question
Joe Riley on the big punishment row
TO BEAT or not to beat -- that is the question occupying the minds, and not occasionally the
arm muscles, of Britain's half-million school-teachers. The age old corporal punishment
debate has never been livelier.
Less than a month after the Labour-controlled Inner
London Education Authority banned the cane in its 800 county schools, come Metropolitan
Police statistics which show that a quarter of all serious crimes in the capital are committed by
It's valuable ammunition for retentionists, who want the cane to combat
what they see as a growing revolt against authority in the classroom. They claim powerful
voices, ranging from the Old Testament to Dr. Rhodes Boyson, the Tory MP for North Brent,
and a former headmaster.
Certainly, 75 per cent of the National Association of Head
Teachers are in favour of corporal punishment, but the position of the main teaching unions is
Although a poll of the largest union, the National Union of Teachers, showed 80
per cent in favour, only about 30 per cent of the questionnaires were returned, while more
than 50 per cent of NUT branches have individually voted against.
The most stridently pro-
body is the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers. At the same
time, the Irish and Scottish teaching unions favour abolition.
But the most vocal faction of
late has been the retentionists' lobby, appalled at cases of teacher bashing and classroom
violence, in a tele-culture age that has seen the good-humoured discipline of Whacko!
replaced by the more libertarian antics of Grange Hill.
Meanwhile the anti-caning
campaign, led by STOPP, the one-thousand strong Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical
Punishment, and the National Council for Civil Liberties, say that beating a child achieves
nothing apart from strengthening the myth that might is right.
And despite three failed
Parliamentary attempts to outlaw corporal punishment in the past eight years, they are now
pinning their hopes for a ban on a European Court of Human Rights hearing this autumn.
the court pronounces in their favour, saying that parents can forbid the use of the cane,
STOPP claim that even the Thatcher government, already advocating short, sharp shock
treatment from courts, will be "embarrassed" into making sure that enough non-caning schools
If the European Court further finds that caning is degrading, then the abolitionists say
that corporal punishment will have to be banned by law. Should Parliament refuse to act, then
STOPP reckon the government would be obliged to quit their seat on the Council of
Corporal punishment is still used in most of Britain's schools. In Liverpool it is
allowed for children over seven in 170 junior and 75 secondary schools. In the case of girls it
has to be administered by a woman teacher, and in all cases details have to be entered in a
It is also allowed in extreme cases in the city's infants' schools, but can
only be carried out by the head teacher.
But what constitutes corporal punishment in
Britain's schools? Apart from the legal requirement that it be "reasonable and moderate" --
following a nineteenth-century manslaughter case, when a master beat a boy to death -- much
of the procedure is subject to local fancy, not least whether a school gets a caning or a non-
At some schools all teachers are allowed to administer physical punishment;
at others only the head or specially designated members of staff. And it's not only the cane
that's used. The gym shoe, the strap, the ruler and the palm of the hand are all accepted
methods in different parts of the country.
Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter, 6 March 1981
Rota rebels force return of the cane
THE HEADMASTER of a Tameside high school is to restore the use of corporal punishment following a revolt by staff who refused to operate a detention rota.
The revolt followed a Tameside Council decision to phase out corporal punishment in secondary schools, and to ban its use immediately in primary schools.
Mr Peter Goode is Tameside secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, to which the rebels belong.
He told the Reporter that problems began at a particular Tameside school when staff returned following the February half-term break to find themselves unable to use corporal punishment at their discretion.
Instead, he added, they were expected to staff a detention rota system outside normal school hours.
Mr Goode, whose union is opposed to the abolition of corporal punishment, told the Reporter: "These teachers decided to inform the head teacher that under no circumstances would they take part in what they saw as an extra compulsory, but if asked they might well be prepared to volunteer.
"Apparently, as a result of this action, there have been second thoughts at the school", added Mr Goode.
"Corporal punishment is now being administered by the head teacher and the detention system has apparently fallen by the wayside.
"We can only assume that the head teacher was not prepared to do this detention duty every night by himself."
Mr Goode added that his union was "not really happy" about the council's decision to abolish corporal punishment in its high schools.
"We still feel that the short sharp shock at the time is best method of dealing with a child, as opposed to the long-winded process of taking a disruptive child along to the head or possible insisting upon the removal of that child from the classroom.
"Professionally, we feel that suspension from school or removal from a classroom is doing the child no good educationally -- and this is something that many boys would relish." .......