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Reformatory CP - May 1967


Daily Mail, London, 5 May 1967


Approved school beatings: The facts

There is now disturbing evidence of harsh beatings at an approved school. It consists of photographs of four boys taken soon after they were caned by their headmaster.

All were punished on one day last month, three for absconding and one for smoking.

Press cuttingFour out of five doctors to whom the photographs were shown consider the caning, in at least one case, was too harsh and exceeded the maximum punishment permitted by Home Office regulations.

According to a master at the school -- who took the photographs -- the punishments were fairly typical and not excessive by the school's normal standards.

He says that "far worse" beatings have been inflicted, by both present and previous headmasters and their deputies.

The Home Office, after studying the photographs for two days, issued this statement last night:

"We are not prepared to comment on these pictures without an opportunity to investigate their authenticity. As at least one, however, appears to suggest punishment in excess of that permitted under the Approved School Rules, we urge you in the interests of all concerned to name the approved school so that an immediate investigation can be carried out."

Newsight is satisfied that the pictures are authentic. But the master asks that the name of the school should not be revealed.

His reason is that such an inquiry could simply result in the dismissal of one headmaster who is typical of many others. What is needed, he believes, is a full investigation into the whole approved-school system.

Only if this were ordered, he says, would he consider coming into the open.


These are the views of the doctors who were shown the photographs:

A North London GP and former police surgeon:

One beating was "excessive -- the cane goes so deep it has caused severe bruising with flowing of blood"; another was "a good whacking, a bit excessive." Two others were "not too bad."

The doctor of a leading public school:

"I would have thought that this was far too brutal. I would be very concerned if a boy was brought to me with these injuries."

A consultant at a children's hospital:

Sufficient evidence of excessive punishment for the photographs to be placed before the Chief Medical Officer to the Ministry of Health and the Home Office.

An eminent pathologist:

"Not much worse than we used to get at school," though one was "a pretty good 'un."

A specialist in forensic medicine at a London teaching hospital:

"Good" corporal punishment. Whether it was excessive depended on the offences and the individual circumstances, but one was "a pretty solid beating." After examining the photographs under magnification he concluded that this boy had received 12 strokes with a short thick stick.


Rule 35 for approved schools says that six strokes is the maximum permitted for boys aged under 15.

The boy in this case is aged 14. A teacher is liable to instant dismissal for infringing the punishment regulations.

The master who took the photographs was the author of a letter, published in the Daily Mail in March, which fiercely criticised the way approved schools are run.

He took the pictures because he was increasingly concerned at the severity with which "maladjusted and emotionally disturbed boys" were beaten.

He says that headmasters and their deputies -- the only staff permitted to administer corporal punishment -- invariably beat boys with their full strength, removing their jackets beforehand so that their arm is unhampered. Sometimes the deputy or another master forcibly bends the boy down.

The master's view of corporal punishment is that, though he disapproves generally, it "does no harm in many cases, particularly in ordinary schools, where the boy is normal and healthy."

His objection is to the flogging of "maladjusted, emotionally disturbed boys, usually from poor or broken homes or without parents."

Frequently these boys display symptoms of psychological disorder (bed-wetting, nervous twitches), mostly they have smoked from an early age (one of the four boys caned was a "heavy, compulsive" smoker at the age of seven).

The case histories of the four caned boys substantiate many of the master's views.

Allegations of excessive beatings are not confined to this one school.

The Home Office has conducted an inquiry into charges of brutality -- disclosed by Newsight in March -- at an approved school in the South of England.

The allegations, made by a former teacher, were that boys were treated as "thugs" and beaten up. The hearing of one boy was said to be affected for two weeks after a beating.

The former teacher says he has since passed on details of two further alleged incidents reported to him by a teacher still at the school.

The Home Office said yesterday that the report "is still under consideration."

In March, Newsight said that a full inquiry into the approved school system was necessary "if only to clear the air."

The case for it is now overwhelming.


Daily Mail, London, 5 May 1967


CASEBOOK on the four boys

These are the case histories of the four boys mentioned in the Newsight article.

CASE No. 1: The worst caning, for smoking. The boy, aged 14, has an IQ of 73, a "very dull level" appropriate to a child of seven.

Reports on his behaviour show an astonishing discrepancy.

From his secondary school report: "Sulky, mischievous, selfish -- a thorough nuisance -- bully ... stole bicycle from school shed -- gambles -- threatened small boys for money. Disobedient -- responds only to firmest discipline -- resents correction. Utterly lazy ... our very worst boy."

Yet from the remand home where he was sent after a court appearance came this report a month later:

"A good-natured, friendly and mischievous youngster. Though one of the quieter members of the group his good-humoured sense of fun tended to get him into trouble for 'impertinence,' but he has not been a disciplinary problem. He responded easily to friendly interest and encouragement."

He was sent to the approved school for stealing three bicycles, the fourth occasion he had been accused in a juvenile court.

CASE No. 2: Aged 14, parents separated and mother now living with another man.

Mother "immature" and father "apparently given to alcohol and physical violence." The father is said to have once threatened his son with a knife.

The boy suffers from a facial tic and nervous eye flutter. He is a "compulsive" smoker and at the age of seven was described as "smoking heavily." Near average intelligence.

According to psychiatrists:

"Obviously emotionally disturbed and insecure ... a severely damaged personality."

He was sent to the school for stealing £5 and had twice before been accused of truancy. Home Office rules forbid the caning of boys with a mental disability without a doctor's permission.

CASE No. 3: Age 15, father deserted home 12 years ago, mother now housekeeper to another man. Intelligence "high average" (IQ 115).

According to a remand home report the situation between the boy and his mother's employer is "apparently so explosive that it was deemed necessary to remove him at the first opportunity." A social worker described this man as "a very difficult customer."

A psychiatrist advised that he was a "disturbed boy, likely to deteriorate in his present home." He suggested that the boy should be placed in a children's home, but there was no vacancy so he was sent to the approved school instead.

His offence (his first) was to steal £5 from his mother.

CASE No. 4: Age 14, one of six children. Intelligence below average. At one time family was homeless and children were placed in care of local authority. Mother suffers from "nervous depression" and father died -- according to mother -- "after chasing" the boy and his sister when they disobeyed him.

A psychologist described him as "dispirited, a bit 'damped down' and quiet ... now and then he can give you a cheery smile and be quite friendly ... timid ... dislikes the fights at his school."

The boy receives no visits or letters from his mother. At Christmas he was unable to go home because his mother was "rather disturbed."

He was sent to the school for housebreaking, his third offence.


Daily Mail, London, 8 May 1967


A sure way to make criminals

ONCE again there is evidence of brutal and unnecessarily harsh punishment at an approved school.

There have been well substantiated reports of this kind before. A staff member alleges that it is happening all the time.

There are 123 approved schools in Britain, most of them run by voluntary bodies. Many are astonishingly successful, happy places. Among the headmasters and mistresses are numbers of skilful, dedicated people who show continual patience in spite of perpetual disappointments.

But there appear to be other establishments which are doing the community a bad turn. The Home Office should make a very searching inquiry into the whole system.

The usual arguments about whether a whack across the backside does a child any harm or not are irrelevant in these cases.

The cane

IT IS not use of the cane we are quarrelling with, but examples of inexcusable brutality. The kind of place where this sort of thing is normal will make criminals rather than cure them.

Figures show, unfortunately, that this is precisely what is happening. Within three years of their release 60 p.c. of the boys passing through approved schools are found guilty of a crime.

The proportion of graduates from approved schools who turn to crime has been going up steadily.

Something is obviously wrong with the system.

When the present Government took office it published some revolutionary suggestions for changing the juvenile courts and treating young offenders.

There was talk of abolishing approved schools and replacing them with various types of homes and schools under the control of local councils.

All this appears to have run aground through lack of money and lack of sufficient trained staff willing to devote themselves to this tough work.

The cure

THE approved schools date from the monumental Children's Act of 1933. They were intended to be a break away from the reformatory mentality. "We shall avoid the penal aspect of these places," said the Home Secretary of the day -- Sir John Simon.

Many of the young people these approved schools were intended to help are now dealt with in other ways -- through the probation service, attendance centres or detention centres.

The approved schools are being left with the "harder cases," and some of the original idealism and hope appears to have got lost in the process.

Behind practically every approved school pupil is a tale of a broken or unhappy home and inadequate parents. About three-quarters of them need psychiatric help.

Many of them are violent. About 20 p.c. of them have never yet committed an offence but are merely beyond parental control.

Trying to turn them into citizens is heart-breaking work. But it certainly will not be accomplished by brutality. The Home Office must ensure that none is taking place.


Daily Mail, London, 10 May 1967

Home Office probes approved school canings

By Daily Mail Reporter


THE Home Office last night ordered an inquiry into allegations of excessive canings at an approved school.

The decision follows a Newsight report in the Daily Mail last Friday detailing punishments of four boys at the school on one day in April.

A master who claims that some beatings given at the school were too harsh had a two-hour interview last night with a senior official of the Home Office children's department.

The official studied colour slides taken by the master of injuries suffered by the boys, three of whom are aged 14 and the other 15.


The Daily Mail article withheld the school's identity at the teacher's request.


Last night a Home Office spokesman said: "An approved school teacher who has alleged that corporal punishment in excess of that permitted under the rules has been administered at the school at which he serves, today identified himself to the Home Office.


"He made a statement detailing his allegations to the deputy chief inspector of the children's department. These allegations will be investigated immediately.

"Following the publication of similar allegations in the Daily Mail, the Home Office identified the school and inspectors conducted a preliminary inquiry on Saturday and Sunday, and visited the school again today."

The investigation will almost certainly be conducted by someone outside the Home Office, probably a leading lawyer.

The four caned boys have already been questioned by two inspectors and examined by a doctor.


The master making the allegations at first refused to go to the Home Office because, he said, he feared an inquiry could lead to the dismissal of a headmaster who was merely typical of many others.

He changed his mind after talking things over with his wife and decided "the interests of the boys must come first."

He hopes that the outcome will be a general inquiry into the whole approved school system.


Daily Mail, London, 16 May 1967

Q.C. to probe approved school

By Daily Mail Reporter

Press cuttingMR. Brian Gibbens, QC, Recorder of Oxford, has been appointed to hold an inquiry into allegations of "irregular and excessive" punishment at an approved school.

This was announced by the Home Office last night.

Mr. Gibbens's appointment follows the disclosure in the Daily Mail Newsight article on May 5 that a master had taken photographs of boys who had been beaten at the school, which is in Surrey.

A Home Office statement said the inquiry will investigate "allegations that irregular and excessive punishment has been administered at Court Lees Approved School, South Godstone."

The master who took the photographs claimed that beatings there had contravened approved school regulations.

The inquiry will be in private and oral evidence will be taken next month.

Mr. Gibbens, 54, will hear evidence with one assessor, Mr. W.J. Wardle, superintending inspector of the Home Office Children's Department.

blob Follow-up: 8 August 1967 - 'Caning' school is shut by Jenkins

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