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School CP - January 2002

Evening Post, Wellington, 18 January 2002

Caning? -- school won't say

By Julie Clothier

A Silverstream, near Wellington, private school won't confirm or deny whether it straps or canes pupils because it says it's accountable to parents, not to the Education Review Office.

The latest ERO report on Silverstream Christian School makes one recommendation for compliance - that the school ensures corporal punishment is not used.

ERO is the government department that evaluates education in all schools.

Principal John Steenhof said today the school was a parent-controlled school and was accountable to parents, not the ERO.

He would not confirm to The Evening Post whether the school used corporal punishment, saying the school was also not accountable to the media.

The school receives government funding for operations and salaries and under both the Education and Crimes Acts, corporal punishment is illegal in schools.

ERO senior review officer Bryan Berry said today this was the third time the school had refused to answer questions over the use of corporal punishment, a standard question the ERO asked schools. He said there was no evidence that it was being used and the ERO had no concerns about pupil safety.

"We've got the power to ask the question but any follow up is with the Ministry Of Education. We've agreed to disagree."

Ministry acting regional manager Jim Douglas said today the refusal by the school to co-operate was frustrating.

The Ministry had sought legal advice in the past about whether the school was legally obliged to answer the question.

He said it would investigate again. "They have a view that it's not an issue for us to be involved in. It is the law (not to use corporal discipline) and we have made that very clear. It's a frustrating area for us and parents appear unwilling to complain. We don't know whether corporal punishment is there and if it is they are unwilling to complain."

Some other Christian schools have also refused in the past to confirm their use of corporal punishment.

Evening Post, Wellington, 19 January 2002

School's silence smacks of suspicion -- groups

An Upper Hutt private school's failure to state how it disciplines pupils has left it open to suspicion, say child welfare groups.

Silverstream Christian School's latest Education Review Office report made one recommendation for compliance - to ensure the school didn't use corporal punishment.

Since 1995, the school has refused to answer the ERO's question on the issue.

ERO and the Ministry of Education say the school meets all other regulations and they have no reason to believe children's safety is at risk.

But both are frustrated by the school's failure to answer the question.

Caning and strapping for punishment was outlawed in New Zealand schools in 1990.

Lobby group End Physical Punishment Of Children (Epoc) spokeswoman Beth Wood said yesterday she believed the school was making a statement that schools should have the right to use corporal punishment but this didn't necessarily mean Silverstream Christian School used it. However, its refusal to confirm or deny its policy raised questions.

"They are setting themselves up for people to ask that. I find it hard to understand how anyone wants to hit a child. There are other ways to discipline children."

Rod Davis, education advocate from the Office of the Commissioner for Children, said yesterday the office supported an anti-hitting culture.

"Schools have had to look at new ways of behaviour management with children and they are doing it really well. But if you still have some schools doing it, it puts us back to where we were a few years ago."

Silverstream principal John Steenhof said yesterday discipline was a matter between the school and its parents. " . . . we are a parent-controlled school. Thus we are accountable to the parents on this issue - not ERO. We are not willing to answer any questions on discipline or any other variety of issues, which we do not believe are under their jurisdiction," he said in a statement.

"All matters concerning discipline are private matters in a private school."

The school is governed by the same board as Wainuiomata Christian College. During that school's most recent ERO report in 2000, the school declined to state whether corporal punishment was used.

However, in 1995 Mr Steenhof said the law prevented parents from obeying their religious beliefs and conflicted with religious freedom because the Bible states in Proverbs that: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."

Evening Post, Wellington, 24 January 2002

U Hutt school under review

The Ministry of Education will next week consider a strategy to deal with an Upper Hutt private school that won't say whether it uses corporal punishment to discipline pupils.

The latest Education Review Office report on Silverstream Christian School says the school won't confirm or deny whether it caned or strapped pupils, banned in schools since 1990.

The school has refused to answer the question, asked by ERO of all schools, since 1995 but neither ERO or the Ministry has any reason to believe corporal punishment is being used.

The Ministry has sought legal advice in the past and will do so again.

Acting regional manager Jim Douglas said today the Ministry would consider the school's ERO report and work towards a strategy next week.

Three years ago, the Ministry worked with Homeleigh Christian School, which refused to confirm or deny its use of corporal punishment, to change its discipline policy to exclude it.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said any school that supported or used corporal punishment would be investigated. "If anyone provided me with any evidence that a school had a policy supporting corporal punishment or any evidence that corporal punishment had occurred, I would ask the Ministry to investigate."

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Colin Farrell 2002
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