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School CP - February 1935

Corpun file 21691

British Medical Journal, 16 February 1935


The Caning of Girls

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SIR, -- In the House of Commons on February 5th the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was asked whether he was now prepared to accept the suggestion that an official opinion should be pronounced on the medical aspect of the caning of girls, for the guidance of all local education authorities. Mr. Ramsbotham replied that corporal punishment had always been regarded as within the discretion of the school authorities, and that his Noble Friend did not see any reason to vary that policy.

It is impossible to believe that the medical department of the Board has not formed any opinion on a medical question so obviously affecting the health of the school child, and it seems to me to be very curious that when so many memoranda and annual reports are written there should be none on corporal punishment. Are we to conclude from the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary that when a county medical officer refers the medical questions to the medical department of the Board he is told that he must decide the questions for himself? Or are we to conclude that advice is given but must not be disclosed?

The views of the Board of Education are set out in the paragraph on discipline in the Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers, and the relevant sentences were quoted on page 1178 of the British Medical Journal of December 22nd, 1934. There can be no doubt that the Board intends to convey in these sentences its view that girls should not be caned by men. But some education committees give authority to men to cane girls. Such disregard of the views of the Board can only be justified if it is shown, either that the girls in, for example, the West Riding of Yorkshire, are much more obstreperous than the girls in, for example, London; or that the teachers in the West Riding are so weak that they cannot control normal girls. Either supposition is fantastic. There can be no doubt that the views of the Board are disregarded by some education committees, and that if the caning of girls is to be stopped it will be necessary for the Board to make a rule to that effect. That is to say, Sir, the policy of the Board will have to be altered.

-- I am, etc.,
Wetherby, Feb. 10th.

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