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School CP - August 1982

Corpun file 22885


The Times, London, 13 August 1982

Heads will take legal action on caning ban

By Lucy Hodges
Education Correspondent

Click to enlarge

Head teachers are taking Manchester City Council to court over its decision to abolish corporal punishment in all schools from the beginning of the autumn term starting next month, it is announced today.

The legal action, which is being brought by the National Association of Head Teachers representing 21,000 headmasters in Britain, is concerned with the way in which the Labour-controlled Manchester council took the decision to scrap the use of the tawse, a leather strap employed in about half the city's 350 schools.

The union says that the council broke the articles of government of schools by not telling headmasters about the governors' meeting at which the crucial decision was taken. Manchester is unique in that, unlike other local authorities, it has one governing body for all its schools and that body is also the council's schools sub-committee.

Mr David Hart, the association's general secretary, said yesterday: "On June 7 the subcommittee members who had previously made the political decision to abolish corporal punishment, reassembled in the form of the governing body and then endorsed what they had already decided as politicians."

While Manchester does not dispute that, it does assert that it has been consulting teachers' organizations in the city about abolition of the tawse for the past four years.

Mr Gordon Conquest, chairman of the city's education committee, said: "How much longer you can consult I do not know. The proposal has been through the council's procedure at least twice and it has been a frequent item on the agenda of the joint consultative committee on which sit representatives of the teachers' associations.

"The idea that we did not consult is absolute nonsense. We have consulted long and hard and there was no way we were going to come to a mutual agreement."

Head teachers in the city are opposed to the abolition of the tawse. As Mr Hart put it: "What my people in Manchester are saying is that they do not want the council to make blanket decisions about abolition of corporal punishment but to deal with the matter according to the needs of individual schools."

He rejected the idea that the legal action for judicial review represented backtracking by the union. At its annual conference the association approved a motion recognizing that the abolition of the cane was inevitable and decided to talk to the Government about alternative sanctions.

Mr Hart said: "I would very much with the Government to step in and resolve this because we are getting into a quite ludicrous situation where we have some authorities abolishing the cane and others not. Until the Government makes a move I have to deal with individual local education authorities as I find them."

The association has declared itself in dispute with Manchester but the authority has refused to recognize that a dispute exists.

The question of how the United Kingdom can meet the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that children should not be beaten against parents' wishes is still being considered by the Government's law officers. Mr Hart has written twice to Mr Rhodes Boyson, the minister responsible for schools, to ask for a meeting but has been told the government has still not decided what to do.

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