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School CP - May 1986

Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1986

The strap has its virtues, says a head

By Anne Susskind
Education Reporter

The strap is a quick and sharp punishment which children sometimes understand better than other punishments, according to the principal of one of Sydney's two Jesuit schools, St Aloysius' College, Milsons Point.

Father Anthony Smith said yesterday that a limited use of the strap was the "most just punishment for some youngsters".

"I don't believe little kids are able to perceive the justice connecting an offence which happens one week and a delayed punishment the next week -- it's close to mental torture," he said.

"Moral punishments and threats, such as 'You're letting the school down', and suspension do more harm than where a child is punished on the spot and it is over."

Father Smith was among a number of private school principals who spoke yesterday about their attitude towards caning.

Most disliked the use of the cane, although they believed they should have the option to use it.

Father Smith said: "We look for punishment which will fit the crime. Physical punishment is just one of the ways. It's used when boys are disrespectful to a teacher, or for vandalism, or bullying."

Father Smith said corporal punishment had only been used about 10 times this year in his school.

"Our first step is a telling off and then writing lines. The next is strappings, then comes being kept in on a Friday afternoon when the boys write out school rules or clean graffiti off desks.

"Then come weekend penals, when they spend a number of hours at the school on Sunday in full school uniform, and then suspension. Finally there is expulsion, or we ask parents to take the boy away."

He said parents could ask for children not to be strapped, "but I don't think we'd listen". Parents sending their children to the school bought into a package deal and were made aware in the interview of the school's stand on the issue, he said.

The Minister for Education, Mr Cavalier, launched a strong attack yesterday on the Opposition's call for a return to the cane for all boys and girls. He said the Opposition clearly did not recognise the many provisions now operating in all schools to promote good behaviour and discipline.

Mr Cavalier moved to phase out the use of the cane in government schools last December. Corporal punishment will be banned in those schools from the beginning of 1987. In anticipation of next year's ban, many schools had already stopped using the cane, Mr Cavalier said.

The headmistress of Kambala girls' school, Miss Barbara Monk, said her school did not have "a cane or a strap or anything".

"There are no circumstances in which I have ever used a cane on a child of any age," she said.

The principal of Knox Grammar, Dr Ian Paterson, said the cane was very rarely used in his school, and "its use has dropped dramatically since the late 60s".

"We've used caning twice this year, for gross rudeness."

Mr Peter Cornish, headmaster of SCECGS Redlands, a co-educational school, said: "I do use it, but very rarely.

"It's an immediate penalty for grievously provocative behaviour -- say a severe personal attack on a member of staff, severe rudeness, particularly to a lady member of staff, or smoking -- that does not warrant suspension or something as bad as that.

"Boys get caned on the bottom. I think very carefully before I act. Under no circumstances would it be used for girls."

Father G.J. O'Kelly, chairman of the Headmasters' Conference of NSW and principal of St Ignatius Riverview, said: "We don't use it much at all but we have the strap on our books. The strap is broader than the cane and doesn't create the same sort of pain."

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