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School CP - January 1952

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Daily Mirror, London, 31 January 1952, p.2

A bad report is the worst punishment -- but teachers say

Keep the cane

By Paul Cave

Cartoon of schoolboy bending over for the cane

THE dread of facing Mum and Dad with a bad school report is today a child's worst punishment -- far worse than touching his toes for six of the best in the Head's study.

But nine out of every ten teachers are against abolishing corporal punishment in schools.

This is revealed in a 120,000-word report, published today, of a three-year survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales on "rewards and punishment in schools."

Their verdict is that the total prohibition of corporal punishment might lead to a small minority of unruly children causing deterioration in the mental health of both pupils and teachers.

To parents the report says bluntly: You are chiefly to blame if your children behave badly at school.

To teachers it says: Pupils have a far sounder judgment than you on how to make children work harder and better.

Thousands of children and hundreds of teachers and education officials gave evidence for the survey, which was made after an M.P. demanded total abolition of corporal punishment in schools This is what the survey discovered:


THESE are the punishments that 7,314 children from ninety-four secondary schools dislike most:

1. Unfavourable school reports because "they require much ingenuity to explain away" at home.

2. Being barred from games or favourite lessons.

3. Being regarded as a pupil needing close watching by the staff.

4. Being caned or strapped.

Press cutting

Teachers, 972 of them, decided the most effective punishments were: a talking-to in private; extra work; being sent to the Head for misbehaviour; being suspected of slacking and told to make a greater effort; being given an unfavourable report for home; being deprived of games; detention.

But 89 per cent of the 724 teachers who gave evidence on caning think it should be kept. Of the others, only 5½ per cent, want it abolished, and only 3½ per cent, think it should be made illegal.

Yet caning is decreasing, and younger teachers favour it less. Assistant teachers, who have to "live" with the children, are more in favour of caning than the heads.

Classroom experiments carried out for the survey showed that for caning to be effective teachers must have the parents' backing. The stick is used mostly on children openly defiant to teachers and is also useful to combat destruction and cruelty to animals; but it is not very successful as punishment for unpunctuality and absence, lying or lack of concentration.

Ten times as many boys as girls are caned, yet most headmistresses and nearly half the assistant mistresses want no "favouritism" for girls. The report comments: "It is possible that some women teachers carry a desire for equal treatment of the sexes into the field of punishment."

Most teachers said girls should not be caned in the presence of boys, that caning should be immediate and that caning or slapping should not be abolished in infant schools.

Grammar-school sports masters would strongly oppose difficult pupils being banned from games as a substitute for caning -- "for their teams may include more than an average proportion of difficult pupils."

The report says some teachers may have caned pupils because they enjoyed it, but many more have done it to save their careers: teachers who can't produce results find themselves in trouble with the education authority.

Both teachers and pupils have contempt for the teacher who can't keep order.

GIRLS dislike the cane much more than boys. But neither sex worries much about a passing cuff from a teacher, and they don't take much notice of detention or being sent from the class-room for misbehaviour.

Boys dislike being made to look foolish in class more than girls, because "in our male-dominated society their normal self-esteem is higher. They get more attention at home, and their sisters, being accustomed to more than a fair share of jocular ridicule at home, are less disturbed by it at school."

Heads will be shocked to find that children are left cold by "a good talking-to in private." Yet this is the most frequent punishment that Heads use.

After studying thirteen schools where corporal punishment was banned, the survey decided that essentials for success in those schools were: Teachers convinced that they can control children without the cane, special teaching methods for individual children, and close co-operation between home and school.


PUPILS and teachers differ on what is the best way to get boys and girls to work harder -- and the report comes out on the side of the pupils.

Boys and girls vote that the best rewards are: Good reports for home; success in a test; success for team or house in sports or class work; good marks for written work.

Teachers believe in: Quiet appreciation; election by staff to position of authority or election to leadership by fellow pupils.

The boys and girls claim they are not bothered about prizes and they are left cold by "public praise." Adolescents find praise in school embarrassing and many regard it as an insult to their dignity. And they don't think much of being elected to some school office.

"This evidence has important implications for school management," states the report, which points out that election to school office is no incentive because only a very few pupils get a chance of these appointments.

Far too little attention, declares the report, is given to seeing that each child has a task he or she has a reasonable chance of doing successfully: "Successful achievement is itself a reward and is highly prized by the pupils."


TEACHERS want stricter home discipline, smaller classes, better provision for backward children, and more special schools for persistently difficult children.

Teachers must be trained to use psychology for difficult children, recommends the report.

In a survey of 6,492 problem children the Foundation found that most "difficult" girls chatter incessantly . . . and that practically all girls, good or naughty, chatter more as they grow older. With boys it is the reverse.

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