Friday, 16 September 2011

Bring back the cane?

I never thought I’d see it again in my time but today on the front page of the Daily Express was a massive leader headline: ‘Schools told to bring back caning.'

I never intended my blog to be anything other than an account of my corporal punishment experiences in our loving, female-led relationship, but there really does seem to be a tide of enthusiasm to reintroduce a much stricter form of discipline across the country so it’s a debate that deserves to be aired.

The Express was quoting from a survey published in the Times Education Supplement which says that 49% of parents think that corporal punishment such as smacking and caning should be reintroduced for very bad behaviour in schools. And what’s even more surprising, says the Express, is that 19% of secondary school children agree!

I find it quite ironic that this survey should hit the front page of a national newspaper only a week or so after Michael M, on his blog Discipline Behaviour, called for the reintroduction of judicial corporal punishment as a method of dealing with certain levels of criminal acts, including for those hooligans involved in the riots. It was a post that provoked me into airing my views on this very blog.

As I said before, I wasn’t against corporal punishment when I was at school. It was simply an accepted part of life – something to fear from my perspective but part of life just the same. But times change and when I became a parent I was happy for my children that there wasn’t this fear of the cane hanging over them.

However, as I say, times change and it seems to me that we’ve swung so far the other way in our society that not only is there a lack of discipline (across the entire Western civilisation) there is also a lack of respect for any kind of authority or other people or property.

I’m not suggesting for a moment bringing back the cane at school is the answer but I’m am starting to wonder if it’s symbol, as the ultimate sanction, might play a small part of a bigger plan to reintroduce the discipline and respect that is lacking.

My worry, as I said in my previous post, is that any use of corporal punishment, is open to abuse. But if those fears could possible be allayed by some kind of judicial procedure then perhaps it could have it’s place.

Getting back to the Express report, Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education was quoted: “It is very encouraging to see the vast majority of people – both parents and pupils – wanting to see teachers exercising more authority. I think a lot of parents will be disappointed by the attitude of teacher’s unions who seem to be wishy washy on the subject.”

The teachers unions predictably dismissed the suggestion. Chris Keates of the NASUWT said: “A mythology has grown up around corporal punishment and its effectiveness which has never borne out by reality.”

According to what he told the Express, “a 1950s report suggested that levels of vandalism we don’t even see now  was rife in the period when schools routinely uses corporal punishment.”

The government has pledged to restore order in the classroom but it seems they didn’t expect for this kind of response to that pledge from the parents and pupils. Other methods of correction suggested in the survey included sending children out of class, after-school detention, suspension and expulsion or writing lines. But to my thinking none of them carry the same kind of deterrent as the cane - and would, I suggest, be quite ineffective measures.

What the Express didn’t say, but the TES does, is that the cane is unlikely to ever find it’s way back into schools because of  human rights issues. The survey quotes children’s rights campaigner Peter Newell, co-ordinator of the Children are Unbeatable! Alliance, who said: “All European states have prohibited school corporal punishment, some more than a century ago. This is not an issue about parents’ views - it’s about children’s protection.”

And he’s right of course – as I suggested earlier.

The big issue, in this mamby-pamby world we live in, is that even if the cane was reintroduced,  the parents of children suffering the cane would resort to the legal process and sue teachers, schools, local education authorities etc for  inflicting physical harm on their children.

My thought is that if close on 50% of parents want to see the cane reintroduced, which means 50% don’t, then the easy answer would be that all parents sign a legal document either opting in or out of the  corporal punishment system. But I’m sure that document would have plenty of loopholes in it.

The survey adds that Mr Newell argues that the UK’s human-rights obligations make it a “dead issue”, and Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman, says “the days of corporal punishment are long gone”. And the response in the TES story from a Department for Education spokesman suggests they are correct. “There is no intention of ever reintroducing corporal punishment,” he said.
They survey concludes that, “there is, it would seem, little chance that those campaigners from the Eighties are going to have to remobilise.”

But only 2000 people were surveyed. The story is now all over the news and I can see every chance that it will encourage a groundswell of similar opinion. I  wonder what will happen if the feeling across the rest of the country does concur with those surveyed who want to see the cane reintroduced. That surely would lead to the remobilisation that the DoE spokesman refers to. But  I still can't see  the cane being re-introduced to schools in my time. But then again, I never expected to see a front pages headline like today's Daily Express leader either.


  1. Hi
    I thought you would pick up on this news.
    Time to start a YouGov petition maybe and see where it goes in terms of support.
    How is the spanking going with you?
    Michael M

  2. Hi again
    I took a look at e Petitions and someone had already started "Bring back the cane and smacking in Schools". Only nine signatures so far so it is a long way from being a dead cert.