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School CP - October 2003

Corpun file 12486

The Press, Canterbury, New Zealand, 10 October 2003

Corporal punishment 'not missed' by most

By Geoff Collett

A Christchurch high school principal says corporal punishment has not been missed by the vast majority of teachers since it was outlawed in schools 13 years ago.

Neil Lancaster, principal of Mairehau High School and chairman of the Canterbury West Coast Secondary Principals' Association, says that from his experience when teachers could cane male pupils, the punishment was often used "abusively" and sent bad messages to students.

With schools losing the right to use corporal punishment in 1990, parents and caregivers are the only people left with legal protection to discipline children with physical force. However, that right, enshrined in section 59 of the Crimes Act, is under review with the Government being pressured by child advocacy groups to repeal the protection.

Mr Lancaster said he had been glad when corporal punishment was finally scrapped in schools. "It was condoning physical force to solve behavioural problems ... "

As Lincoln High School deputy principal, he had been called on to cane misbehaving boys. "I did it a couple of times and felt totally disgusted by it." The most-respected teachers in schools he taught at in corporal-punishment days were ones who never used the cane.

When the practice was banned, there was a "polarised" debate and some people still argued today that schools should be allowed to cane or strap pupils, but Mr Lancaster said there were very few educationists in New Zealand who would hold that view. He said it was hard to tell what the effect of ending corporal punishment had been on students' long-term behaviour.

"But it has made more schools look at the issue of what's effective punishment, and what changes behaviour, far more seriously than they did before. "I'm not saying discipline doesn't matter -- discipline does matter enormously -- but that (corporal punishment) isn't an appropriate source of discipline."

The Press, Copyright of Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2003, All rights reserved.

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