Thursday, September 22, 2011


A survey conducted by TES has received massive publicity. It shows 49
percent of parents supporting corporal punishment in schools. The more
significant finding which the tabloids did not cover was that more
than eighty percent of parents opposed cutting education spending. I
can't imagine why the gutter press was not interested in that one!

I have taught successfully without the use of corporal punishment for
32 years. It is many years since corporal punishment was allowed in
British schools and in many cases the people who are condemning the
"feral youth" of today did not actually get caned themselves.

A sign of the times was when a private school wanted to utilise a
loophole in the law and carry on caning (sounds like a good film
title). They found the only place they could purchase canes was a sex
shop which could also have provided whips and bondage gear. When this
got into the papers they thought it was not quite the image they
wanted to portray to the public.

I did not go into teaching to hit children, however provocative the
little darlings may have been. I have however had (very rarely) to
physically restrain pupils from harming themselves or others. That is
not punishment. And interestingly the most difficult of the pupils I
have taught in all that time have been beaten by their parents. And a
fat lot of good it seemed to do them.

This does not surprise me. My brother was caned on his first day at
secondary school for "fidgeting". His school had substantially more
physical punishment than mine yet by any standard the behaviour at his
school was worse. Perhaps the culture of bullying was passed down from
teachers to pupils. I saw the school bully at my school outside the
head's office on numerous occasions. Did he cease being a bully? No he
became a bully with a sore backside.

There are some issues which the polls showing public support for
corporal punishment seem to avoid. An example would be ?would you be
happy for your daughter to be caned by a male teacher?? An
overwhelming "NO" shortly followed by "I'll have the law on yer!" would
be a probable response. Many people approve of beatings for other
people's children of course, but are not too happy about their own
being beaten.

The other issue involved in the question is corporal punishment for
girls which many parents find abhorrent. It means that exactly the
same offence by a boy would receive a caning and by a girl some other
punishment. How just is that?

I once had the privilege of being driven by a taxi driver who had an
opinion on education. His went a little further than most. He would
have a quiet word with any miscreants and tell them he knew where they
lived and he knew people who knew people who could set their house on
fire. What can you say in the face of such considered judgement? All I
did say was that I valued his input and of course I wouldn't dream of
telling him how to drive a cab.

If anyone chooses to suggest that my classroom must be a haven of
licensed wrongdoing, do spend five minutes there before drawing such a
rash conclusion. After all I would have sought an alternative
occupation if things were like that - you know an OFSTED inspector for
example :)

The caning issue is being used as a diversion from the real problem in
education: a problem correctly identified by parents who
overwhelmingly oppose the cuts. Gove and co really do want to turn
back the clock: unqualified teachers in dilapidated schools for the
poor and only the best for the rich. Of course many of the old
Etonians in the cabinet will have felt the cane. And it cannot be said
to have improved their behaviour one jot.

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