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School CP - October 2000


Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October 2000

It's the cane mutiny as schools fight to do it with love and care

By Julia Baird and Sharon Verghis

Two Christian schools which refuse to accept the State's ban on caning students have been warned they face deregistration.

A spokesman for the Board of Studies confirmed yesterday it was in negotiations with Nambucca Valley Christian Community School and Sutherland Shire Christian School after they refused to embrace the ban on corporal punishment.

The State education director for Christian Community Schools, Mr Neville Pollard, said he supported the stand taken by the schools.

"We believe corporal punishment is biblically endorsed, but it's not the only method of discipline endorsed by the Bible ... If given lovingly and caringly, it is a very viable method of punishment," he said.

The Board of Studies spokesman said it was the first time the board had faced this problem.

Under education legislation, schools must register with the board their agreement to the ban on corporal punishment.

The board spokesman said the Nambucca Valley school was due for re-registration this year.

He was surprised at the school's stance as believed it had not used the cane for years.

He said the board was also tackling the Sutherland school, although negotiations were not as advanced.

The business manager for Sutherland Shire Christian School, Mr Bob East, refused to comment, saying it would jeopardise relations with the board.

"Negotiations are at a very delicate stage ... we don't want to inflame the issue any further."

Since 1995, all 53 Christian community schools in NSW have had to include a disclaimer in their discipline policy that they do not use corporal punishment.

All had done so except for Nambucca Valley Christian School, Mr Pollard said.

"Generally, the schools had been very disappointed that they had had to insert the disclaimer, but all but one had toed the line," he said.

Before 1995, there were no standard regulations governing the schools' corporal punishment policy, he said. It was up to individual schools as to what degree of force could be used, or what misdemeanours incurred this penalty.

It could be used up to "half a dozen times" a year by some schools, he said.

Mr Pollard stressed that caning had been just one of many punishment methods used by the schools, including after-school detention and suspension. "We are not cane-happy", he said.

He was "fairly optimistic" that a solution could be brokered between the schools and the Board of Studies.

Under section 47 of the Education Act 1990, schools must meet six sets of requirements in order to gain registration.

An amendment to the act in 1995 stated that schools were not permitted to use corporal punishment on students.

The principal of Nambucca Valley Christian School did not return the Herald's calls yesterday.


Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 2000

School fighting for right to cane hits at 'politics'

By Gerard Noonan, Education Editor

A Christian school defending its right to cane students has accused the NSW Government of interfering politically in school affairs.

Sutherland Shire Christian School said the changes to the law, made by the Education Minister, Mr Aquilina, in 1995, prohibiting corporal punishment in schools, were imposed "for political and not educational reasons".

"The stated policy of [the school] includes as one of its many biblical aims the discipline of our children with love, and the association of parents believes the right to do that is granted by other current law," the school's business manager, Mr Bob East, said yesterday.

Mr East said the school was Christian parent-controlled and all significant policies, such as its nature and discipline policy, were set by the association of school parents, the body that controlled the school.

However, the general manager of the NSW Board of Studies, Mr John Ward, said discussions were continuing between the board and the school in a bid to find ways it could satisfy the requirements of the law.

"We are consulting and working with them on this matter," Mr Ward said.

Two board officials visited the school this week.

Normally private schools face re-registration with the Board of Studies every six years.

The board traditionally looks at six separate criteria - premises and buildings; facilities; equipment and resources; teaching staff; courses of study; and curriculum and assessment - where the school has to meet certain standards.

Five years ago, a new criterion was added, requiring each school to commit to a policy that stated it explicitly forbade the use of corporal punishment.

The school, which has operated in Lucas Heights since 1977, last faced re-registration in 1993, before the corporal punishment amendments were pushed through by the NSW Government.

The 750-student Sutherland Shire Christian School and the smaller Nambucca Valley Christian Community School on the North Coast are both at odds with the board over their discipline policies.

Mr East said his school's association of parents recently decided to maintain its policy on loving discipline and sought re-registration on that basis.

The association argued that parents freely chose to send their children to the school with full knowledge and support of its policies, including the methods of nurture and discipline.

"The current requirement in the act severely curtails this freedom," he said.

"Parents have the right to delegate that role in specific circumstances to a trusted friend, such as a grandparent, babysitter or a teacher.

"Clause 47 (f) of the Education Act 1990, as amended, is being interpreted by the Board of Studies as meaning that the 'teacher' is excluded from that right of delegation."

Mr East said the school found such a position unacceptable, both from a Christian viewpoint and as a Christian parent-controlled school.

The Christian Community Schools group has supported the stand taken by the two schools.

The group's State education director, Mr Neville Pollard, said earlier this week the group believed corporal punishment was biblically endorsed, although not the only method of discipline endorsed by the Bible.

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Colin Farrell
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