|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1999 : UK Schools Feb 1999|
Corpun file 3281 at www.corpun.com
BBC News, 1 February 1999
Schools demand right to corporal punishment
Christian schools opposed to the government's ban on corporal punishment are taking their protest to the European Court of Human Rights.
Legislation passed last year outlawed corporal punishment in all schools, including independent schools which had previously been able to set their own rules on discipline.
But headteachers of 20 independent church schools and schools run by parents say that this ban breaches "religious and parental" rights and as such are planning to take their complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Philip Williamson, headteacher of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, said that "the government is stopping parents from selecting a school which reflects their philosophical beliefs".
"We believe strongly that the state has no right to interfere with the upbringing of children in the family unless there is some sort of assault or abuse going on".
Instilling a 'moral code'
Rejecting claims that using physical force as punishment is un-Christian, Mr Williamson said that "corporal punishment has been part of Judeo-Christian heritage since time immemorial".
The use of physical punishment was intended to "instil a moral code so that children can make moral choices and later become responsible adults", said Mr Williamson.
The schools are seeking to raise funds for their application to the European court, which they want to lodge before the corporal punishment ban comes into force in the beginning of the next school year.
The application to Strasbourg will claim that the School Standards and Framework Act, which includes the ban on corporal punishment, breaches the rights of parents and freedoms of religious expression guaranteed by international statutes of human rights.
Parents of the 200 pupils at Mr Williamson's school all have to sign a consent form allowing teachers to use physical punishment. At the Christian Fellowship School this takes the form of a smack on the hand or on the rear with a wooden ruler.
Children are given corporal punishment for misdemeanours including lying, stealing, deliberate disobedience, fighting and vandalism.
Mr Williamson describes his school as having grown from the non-conformist tradition in the church, but he says that his school now draws pupils from across a wide range of Christian and non-Christian families.
Daily Post, Liverpool, 22 February 1999
The astonishing last resort a Merseyside head is considering
Come to school and beat your own children
By Anne Benson
PARENTS could be called to punish their own children if a Liverpool school is blocked from using corporal punishment, it emerged yesterday.
Headteacher of the Christian Fellowship School, Phil Williamson, said he was ready to ask mothers and fathers to smack youngsters as a way of getting round a possible legal ban.
The move was prompted amid the school's battle to carry on using the punishment. It is taking its case to the European Court of Human Rights after the Government outlawed caning in private schools.
Mr Williamson said: "There are two options open to us. We can ask parents to come in, which is within the law, or we can continue whatever the ruling.
"Obviously, nobody wants to go down that route. We want to comply with the law but the Government is very close to undermining Christian rights within the country."
If a child misbehaved, the parents would be asked to come into school and administer punishment as this would not be breaking the law.
Mr Williamson, headteacher of the 200-pupil school in Edge Hill, Liverpool, is leading a campaign by 20 Christian schools across the country to fight the plans to outlaw physical punishment in independent schools.
The group hopes an early application to the Strasbourg court will persuade the Government to abandon the plans which are due to come into force in September.
Mr Williamson said they had received a lot of support since they announced their plan to challenge the ruling.
"People can see that society is not really improving in its moral standards. One third of all crime is committed by teenagers, the number of teacher assaults have gone up -- something is not working.
"The Government is dismantling a tried and tested method. They are erring on the side of children's rights instead of parents' rights," he said.
He said they believed in the rights of children.
"They have a right to be protected from abuse and I am all in favour of the law coming down heavily on anyone who abuses children in any way. But it is an abuse of children to send them into society without a moral code in place. Children need to know how to behave," said Mr Williamson.
Mr Williamson has met barristers who are now working towards the application to the European Court.
A fighting fund to pay for the action has also been established, with each school being asked to raise £5,000.
But Mr Williamson said the ideal solution would be for the Government to remove the offending clause from the new Act which would save them having to go through the courts.
"If we win they will then have to change the law," he said.
Mr Williamson said that all parents at his school signed a form consenting to teachers administering corporal punishment if and when required.
Pupils at the school, aged between four and 16, are punished for lying, stealing, deliberate disobedience, fighting and vandalism. They receive a smack on the hand or, for older children, on the rear with a wooden spoon.
THE ARCHIVE index
About this website
www.corpun.com Main menu page