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BBC News Online, London, 3 October 2008
A 'fifth of teachers back caning'
One in five teachers would like to see the cane brought back in schools for "extreme cases", a survey suggests.
The deterioration of class behaviour was the main reason given for backing the return of corporal punishment.
The Times Educational Supplement poll of 6,162 UK teachers found more support for the cane in secondary schools.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said violence against children was illegal and unacceptable.
The TES survey found that 22% of secondary school teachers would support the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases.
However, those working in primary schools were less in favour at 16%.
Overall, 20.3% supported "the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases".
The idea was less popular with heads and deputy and assistant heads, with just 12% favouring the idea, the TES reported.
Supply teacher Judith Cookson told the TES: "There are too many anger management people and their ilk who give children the idea that it is their right to flounce out of lessons for time out because they have problems with their temper.
"They should be caned instead."
And primary teacher Ravi Kasinathan said: "There is justification, or an argument, for bringing back corporal punishment, if only as a deterrent. I believe some children just don't respond to the current sanctions."
Corporal punishment was abolished in schools a decade ago.
National Union of Teachers said it could not support the views of those in favour of hitting children.
Acting general secretary Christine Blower said: "To put it another way, 80% of teachers are not in favour of a return to corporal punishment.
"The NUT could not support the views expressed by those in favour of hitting children."
Former Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis and former head teachers said bringing the cane back would be a return to the "dark ages".
But chairman of the Campaign for Real Education Nick Seaton said most people would agree with the teachers in favour of the cane.
He said: "There's no doubt that behaviour and general discipline in schools have become much worse since corporal punishment was banned.
"Schools can't function properly or raise standards unless they have good discipline, so -- you know -- adults have been encouraged to surrender their authority to children and young people basically, and I think that's not good for society or the young people themselves."
© BBC MMVIII
RELATED VIDEO CLIPS
Two extracts from BBC One's popular daily TV magazine programme, "The One Show" (24 October 2008).
CLIP 1 OF 2
Anita Rani reports. This 5-minute item is a response to the survey mentioned above which found that 20% of British teachers would like to see the return of CP. A journalist on the Times Educational Supplement, which conducted the poll, explains why pro-CP teachers are afraid to stand up and be counted. Interview with Katie Ivens of the Campaign for Real Education (pro-CP) and an anti-CP headmaster. Also some 15-year-old students are interviewed, both pro and con.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
CLIP 2 OF 2
Immediately following the above film report, a short studio discussion ensued with comedienne Dawn French, who is against CP, and Simon Warr, a former caning headmaster who is still in favour of it. In a somewhat grotesque tabloid stunt, presenter Adrian Chiles (a middle-aged man) has earlier that day undergone a caning by Warr to see what it was like, and this is glimpsed through Venetian blinds. This clip lasts 3 minutes 30 seconds.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.
Times Educational Supplement, London, 3 October 2008
Sticking it out
It's only a decade since corporal punishment was made illegal, yet it is still a sore issue for some teachers, and for the children who received it.
By Madeleine Brettingham
"It's no consolation for these two to remember what every schoolboy learns the hard way," trumpeted the 1959 cover of John Bull magazine, a popular illustrated periodical, below a picture of two glossy-haired schoolboys scowling outside the headmaster's office. "That the patient man behind the door has two remedies for unofficial fisticuffs. There'll be a bout in the gym with large gloves -- or the ultimate deterrent in swishy canes."
Nowadays the quaint illustration of this pair of freckled schoolboys seems to hark back to a distant era, when corporal punishment was regarded with winking indulgence. Strange, then, to think that caning was only abolished, in all schools and for all children, 10 years ago.
It happened because of the dogged campaigning of the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment, or STOPP, a small group of committed teachers, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last month.
"It was a fairly small operation, and within my school only about 10 per cent of the staff were involved," recalls Mary Marsh, a director of the NSPCC and a former campaigner with STOPP, whose membership never numbered more than 1,000 people.
"Everyone else was anxious that if they stopped, how would they keep control?"
In an age where some teachers struggle with arguably far worse behavioural problems, the cane looks like an historical artefact. But the "rod" was used "extensively and disproportionately" at Mary's school in the Seventies, she says, with children being beaten for minor infractions such as arriving in the wrong coloured socks. It wasn't even effective, in her view. "There was classroom chaos even then, and the cane didn't stop it. On the contrary, it became more hardened."
But Mary was in the minority. Even by the mid-Eighties, with STOPP fighting hard for abolition, polls showed that more than 60 per cent of parents supported caning, 50 per cent of teachers were in favour of it, and two thirds of children were in schools that practised it. Indeed, Colin Abraham, then president of the NASUWT, the teachers' union, likened depriving teachers of the cane to "a Ford worker having his spanner taken away".
Colin is now retired, but stands by his use of the cane. "One never liked doing it, but there were occasions when one felt it was the only answer," he says. "The opposition said it harmed your relationship with pupils, but I never found that to be so. On most occasions I would say afterwards, that's the end of the issue and I hope you won't hold it against me. And the pupils would say: 'No, I deserved it'."
One pupil even wrote to a broadsheet newspaper during the Seventies to rally in favour of keeping the cane. "In my earlier years at this school I was caned on several occasions," he wrote. "I must admit that I deserved all those canings (and probably more) and didn't resent the punishment. People who want to get rid of the cane should tell us what they would put in its place."
This was a familiar cry among the pro-caning lobby. It was also not entirely unjustified, as subsequent figures showed. Rates of exclusion in inner London following abolition more than doubled, a phenomenon that has been backed up by at least one international study.
Harry Greenway, a former headteacher and Tory MP who took part in a back bench rebellion over corporal punishment in the mid-Nineties, is one who views alternatives to the cane as slower and more damaging forms of punishment. "Abolition took schools closer to the law. Now discipline issues are passed on to the police, and we are seeing more children in court -- not necessarily a good thing."
During his years as a headteacher, Harry Greenway believes he used corporal punishment as an effective deterrent. "It was normally in the cupboard, and it was sparingly used. But STOPP poured out endless propaganda and emotive language such as "brutality". In my school, we had strict rules about how the cane was administered.
"I would never just put a cane in the hands of a teacher and say 'use that if you need it'. It would have to be properly controlled."
But of course, this wasn't always the case. Despite some local authorities laying down rules about using the cane -- stipulating the number of strokes, the member of staff who should dispense them, and where the incident should be recorded -- stories of abuse began to leak into the press.
The head of Dalesdown Prep School in West Sussex was jailed for three months in 1986 after beating an 11-year-old boy so hard on the backside with a gym shoe it left nine-inch weals. And a Nottingham schoolboy was awarded £200 damages the same year after his woodwork teacher grabbed his neck so hard it damaged his windpipe. A further scandal arose when it was discovered that London schools' canes were being supplied by a sex shop. STOPP estimates that a series of legal cases cost the Government millions of pounds.
"It was actually a tool of the trade for some heads," remembers Nick Peacey, STOPP's chairman. "There were huge abuses of the cane in the school I worked in. One deputy head once joked to me that she raised the cane so hard when she was punishing a girl that she broke a light bulb."
STOPP's headline-grabbing research revealed there were four beatings per 100 secondary pupils every year in England and Wales, or one caning every 19 seconds. While their opponents always claimed that the rod was largely used as a deterrent, here was proof to the contrary. It wasn't until Scottish mothers Grace Campbell and Jane Cosans took their case to the European Court of Human Rights that campaigners started to make real inroads.
The mothers argued that their sons' schools' discipline policies were at odds with their philosophical convictions, and in 1982 they won their case. It opened the floodgates for a tide of similar complaints, and put the Government in an impossible position.
Peter Newell, a former STOPP campaigner, describes it as "the first significant court judgment on school corporal punishment". The same year, the National Union of Teachers passed a resolution opposing it, and the next year all of the other unions, apart from the NASUWT, did the same. "Until then, all the main unions were defending their right to use the cane. But the ruling forced the Government to see it as a human rights issue," he says.
It did, but more slowly than some had hoped. At first, the Conservatives proposed a compromise, allowing schools to beat only those children whose parents gave permission. But this was condemned as unworkable by teaching unions, a recipe for "educational apartheid". So the Government went back to the drawing board.
It wasn't until 1986 that the Labour peer Lord McIntosh managed to move an amendment to the Education Bill that changed life in British classrooms for years to come. Today, he describes it as his proudest moment. "Politicians thought they were reflecting public opinion and would be criticised as weak," he remembers. "And teachers felt they were having a disciplinary tool taken away."
The amendment was passed in the Commons by one vote -- almost a fluke given that a handful of pro-caning Tories complained they had been prevented from attending by traffic from Prince Andrew's wedding. And so, 200 years after Poland (1783), more than 120 years after Italy (1860) and many years after both Japan (1900) and Russia (1917), Britain became the last country in Western Europe to abolish corporal punishment.
That the situation had continued for so long, affecting so many children, without a public outcry, seems unimaginable today, but perhaps is less surprising when you consider the climate of the time: corporal punishment for prisoners and hanging for murder were only abolished in the Sixties -- and capital punishment wasn't completely wiped from the statute books until 1999.
For most of the 20th century, inflicting physical punishment was viewed as an acceptable means of ensuring co-operation and protecting the public interest.
David Blunkett, the former Cabinet minister, accepts that this is why the cane remained part of British life for as long as it did. He recalls being beaten on the hand and backs of the legs at primary school, after being wrongly accused of writing on a wall. He was Education Secretary in 1998 when the ban was extended to private schools. "A lot of people at the time had experience of corporal punishment, including me. For a long time the Government at the highest level was dominated by those who'd experienced private schooling and felt any ban was an infringement of their private rights," he says.
As late as 2005, four Christian schools took their case to the law lords, arguing that abolition was an infringement of their right to act in loco parentis. They lost their case, but stand by their position.
"Our argument was that parents had established these schools so that there would be continuity between home and school," says Graham Coyle, of the Christian Schools Trust, which supported the campaign. "Taking away this aspect of discipline policy was tantamount to the state saying to the parents, 'you can no longer discipline your children in the way you want'."
Many believe the ban should have been extended to the home. Organisations such as the NSPCC are still campaigning to ban smacking, citing the wealth of evidence suggesting corporal punishment is harmful to the child.
US research indicates that smacking and caning increase the risk of anxiety, alcohol abuse, aggression and anti-social behaviour as children mimic the violent behaviour they see doled out by adults.
What's more, a US analysis shows that, even in the half of states where schoolroom paddling is still legal, crime is no lower and exam results are no higher than those where less painful methods of discipline are practised.
"In the short term corporal punishment stops the child from misbehaving, but it doesn't stop them from doing it again in the future," says Dr Tony Waterston, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics' advocacy committee, one of the many major medical bodies to oppose caning. "Other measures not only work as well, but have longer term benefits."
Nonetheless, the cane's abolition continues to divide opinion. One 55-year-old former teaching assistant, dismissed for accidentally striking a female pupil during a classroom brawl in which she threatened to stab another pupil, feels that teachers, attempting to keep order in inner-city schools where even the most difficult pupils are rarely excluded, face an impossible task.
Today, he bitterly regrets his actions and opposes corporal punishment. "I was a schoolboy in the Sixties. I was beaten with a slipper for raising a hand at the wrong time and once saw a geography teacher slap a boy so hard across the face it knocked him out," he remembers. "But the school I worked in was anarchy, with daily incidents and staff off with stress or depression. We weren't all that well behaved in my day, but there was a line we didn't cross."
That line, in many older teachers' eyes, was three foot long and made of bamboo [sic -- actually rattan -- C.F.], a whip-thin warning against committing the severest of infractions. To its opponents, in human hands, this innocuous instrument was transformed into a brutal enforcer, ineffective and liable to abuse.
But whatever your view, the days of canes being advertised in teaching magazines for 11p a pop are unlikely to return. A decade after it was locked back in the cupboard for good, and 40 years after a small group of British teachers clubbed together to oppose it, this most controversial of instruments can still inspire a stinging debate.
1669: The first recorded protest against corporal punishment in Britain. A "lively boy" presents a petition to Parliament against the, "accustomed severities of the school discipline of this nation".
1783: Poland abolishes corporal punishment.
1967: A watershed report on primary schools by Lady Plowden explicitly advocates abolition in Britain.
1968: STOPP -- the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment -- is formed by Gene Adams, a London teacher.
1979: London Borough of Haringey's Labour council becomes first to abolish corporal punishment.
1982: Grace Campbell and Jane Cosans, two Scottish mothers, win the right to withdraw their sons from school physical punishment in a landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights.
1984: STOPP admonishes Prince Andrew for trivialising the debate after he's rumoured to have visited the Schoolboys' Dinner Club, a west London restaurant specialising in canteen food and canings.
1987: Corporal punishment is abolished in state schools. Private schools may continue to cane pupils, but not those on assisted places.
1997: Conservative backbenchers stage a rebellion, attempting to reinstate the cane.
1998: Corporal punishment is abolished in private schools under David Blunkett, the then Education Secretary.
2005: Four Christian schools go to the law lords arguing for their right to retain corporal punishment with parental consent. They lose the case.
2008: Outcry as the Christian Tyndale Academy in Forest Gate, east London, which falls outside the legal definition of a school, is able to continue smacking pupils across the hand.
This week: A survey by The TES finds that a fifth of teachers would bring back the cane.
TES Editorial © 2008 TSL Education Ltd.
The Times, London, 6 October 2008
Letters to the Editor
Tough love: does society need the cane in schools?
Sir, Nicola Woolcock states that the cane has gone, "much to the relief of pupils and most of their parents" (report, Oct 3). Really? To my knowledge no national surveys on the subject were ever taken before or after the abolition of corporal punishment as to the views of parents or pupils. A "liberal" approach to school discipline was imposed without due consultation or any trial periods.
One of the unintended, but predictable, consequences of abolition is the huge numbers of semi-literate truants roaming our streets every day. Many, not all, might have taken a different path had they been faced with the prospect of "six of the best" from a teacher who knew the true meaning of the phrase "cruel to be kind". As it is many of them are destined for innumerable court appearances and eventual custodial sentences.
The abolition of the cane, as a last resort, has proved to be disastrous for classroom discipline and equally disastrous for a society now held to ransom by a generation of youngsters who have no fear of the lawmaker.
School Governor, Brixham, Devon
Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Times Educational Supplement, London, 10 October 2008
Survey whips up debate on caning
By Adi Bloom
TV and newspaper pundits, nationally and internationally, reported on TES findings that a fifth of teachers want corporal punishment back
To beat or not to beat? That is the question teachers and their former pupils around the world are debating this week. A TES survey of 6,162 teachers had last week found that one in five backed the return of the cane. They called for schools to be able to use corporal punishment "in extreme cases".
Our findings tapped into the global public conscience.
In fact, the story was followed up by journalists from Ireland to India reporting that 20.3 per cent of teachers did not advocate sparing the rod.
In this country it vied for air-time with the credit crunch and Gordon Brown's political woes on BBC Radio 4's Today. ITN even went with the line "Caning; Back on the education agenda."
And, of course, it was seized on by tabloid headline writers with particular delight. "A caning for classroom yobs?" the Daily Express asked, claiming that teachers "believe corporal punishment is the most effective measure for bringing yob pupils to heel".
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens also saw the survey's findings as "a cry of despair from those who daily endure the howling, indisciplined chaos that now infects so many schools." He added that caning children ensured that they did not end up "a lost cause, feral and beyond control".
By contrast, a commentator in The Guardian pointed out that many children who misbehave at school are responding to physical abuse at home. "Why would you feel able to confide in a teacher who is just as likely and able to turn violent against you?" she said. "If every adult you know is allowed to hurt you, who can you trust?"
Teachers writing on The TES online staffroom were similarly divided. One contributor wrote: "If behaviour management worked, we wouldn't be having this debate. I have been on several courses in the past, but there are children who are beyond my control, despite my best efforts.
"These children, if not checked in their youth, will not be employable. We are doing them no favours."
But others disagreed that the cane would have the desired effect. "When I was at school in the 1970s, there were some children who were regularly belted, and it made no difference at all to how they turned out," one contributor said.
"I knew some excellent teachers who never resorted to this. Then there was a scary number of halfwit teachers who regularly lost the plot and belted a whole class for one child's behaviour."
Institutional violence, many contributors believed, should never be sanctioned. "Violence to control children begins with a slipper in nursery and ends with children being buried under a concrete floor," one teacher wrote.
"I don't know about you, but I don't want to be placed anywhere on that continuum."
Jacob Middleton, an historian at Birkbeck College in London, claims that such debates are not new. Corporal punishment has been a contentious issue since 1570, when the first page of the first-ever English-language book on education questioned whether it was acceptable to beat pupils. But it was not until more than 400 years later, in 1987, that the use of the cane was abolished in state schools.
This was extended to the independent sector in 1998.
"People call in the abstract for the return of disciplinary values," said Mr Middleton. "But in practice, who does the punishing? It's the headteachers. But they don't necessarily have direct contact with the children, so they are compelled to support teachers' judgments.
"That renders them little more than a flogging assistant or a whipping machine." And, he points out, memories of an era when pupils were beaten into perfect behaviour are inevitably rose-tinted.
"Pupils certainly weren't better behaved," he said. "They used to rap the teachers in return. And teachers could expect to be assaulted by parents an average of six times a year. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, this was mostly about corporal punishment."
In fact, corporal punishment often created an atmosphere of fear, rather than respect.
James Pinder, a 77-year-old retired physics teacher from Tameside, used the cane only twice in a career spanning 30 years.
The first time was to punish three truants; the second was for two boys who pretended to run over a frightened younger pupil with a lawn mower.
"I was actually opposed to corporal punishment," he said. "Though the kids didn't know I was. It was there as a deterrent.
"But it didn't create respect. It created resentment. If pupils had respect for you, they would do what you said, anyway."
TES Editorial © 2008 TSL Education Ltd.
Times Educational Supplement, London, 17 October 2008
Sparing the rod has spoilt pupils and the profession
By Simon Warr
I had one of the worst starts in life you could imagine: both my parents died of illness in the space of six months, when I was just six years of age. I was fostered to one aunt, my older brother to another. I was then sent away to boarding school, 150 miles away from "home".
From the moment I arrived, I was a nightmare for my teachers, and my behaviour went from bad to worse. Things reached a climax when my "reprehensible" behaviour reduced the director of music to tears. I was reported to my housemaster, who gave me six strokes of the cane across my backside. The pain of this "thrashing" taught me a real lesson; it set down firm parameters, leaving me in no doubt that being rude to a teacher would not be tolerated. As I left the housemaster's study, I told myself that I never again wanted to suffer such an experience. I amended my behaviour from that point on.
Richard Dilley, the housemaster, proved to be exactly the "dad" I needed, and he remains a friend to this day. It is difficult to express in words how grateful I am to him that, while always showing me kindness, he had the judgment and conviction necessary to keep me in check.
Ever since the abolition of corporal punishment in state schools in 1987, leading to its prohibition in all UK schools a decade ago, teachers have had to suffer increasing pupil misbehaviour and ever-diminishing respect for authority. The need for discipline is now at the top of our list of concerns, as confirmed in a recent TES poll, which found that one in five teachers would like to see the cane reintroduced.
I am not suggesting that we return to the 1950s, when children were told they "should be seen but not heard" and schools were often run by teachers for teachers. However, we must take steps to restore authority to those running our schools. The shift of "power" -- from teachers to pupils -- that has taken place since the mid-1980s has had a deleterious effect on the development of a growing number of children, many of whom end up living chaotic lives.
I often hear of the "irreversible damage" to the teacher-pupil relationship caused by corporal punishment; that caning a child reinforces in his or her mind the idea that problems can be solved via the perpetration of violence; that smacking or caning creates an increased risk of anxiety, alcohol abuse, or anti-social behaviour. In my experience, all of this is complete nonsense. The teachers at my school who used caning as a last resort seemed to be those who were most popular -- they cared enough about us to have the interest to keep us on the straight and narrow, and they had the strength of character to do what they deemed necessary. Caning was used only when all other sanctions at their disposal had failed.
In an ideal world, of course, we should not have to inflict physical pain on a child. But what has been the outcome of banning the cane? What has been put in its place? Nothing. We now have to consider suspension, expulsion or even police involvement in cases that, 30 years ago, would have earned six strokes.
The reintroduction of caning should be considered for both practical and moral reasons. On a moral level, society has a duty to rear its children to become responsible adults, which we are palpably failing to do in a growing number of cases. We are failing because we are unable to set clear parameters within which children should operate. More and more pupils fail to flourish at school because they have been given, by years of unrestraint, an inflated sense of their own importance.
Corporal punishment, when administered as a last resort, by the head alone, could be enormously beneficial as a corrective measure when dealing with consistently problematic teenagers. Such a policy would provide the teaching profession with an effective sanction that it currently lacks. It certainly worked for me.
Simon Warr, Teacher of French and Latin at The Royal Hospital School in Ipswich, Suffolk. He played the housemaster in Channel 4's 'That'll Teach 'Em'.
TES Editorial © 2008 TSL Education Ltd.
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