Smacking ban faces challenge by schools

By Victoria Combe

A GROUP of independent Christian schools is challenging the Government’s ban on corporal punishment, which comes into force this week, claiming that smacking is “moderate and loving discipline.”

Forty members of the Christian Schools’ Trust are contesting the ban through the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the legislation is an infringement of “religious and parental” rights. The existing ban on corporal punishment for pupils in state schools will be extended to private schools when the Schools Standards and Framework Act comes into force tomorrow.

Philip Williamson, headmaster of the Christian Fellowship School in Edge Hill, Liverpool, claimed that assaults on teachers had increased since the ban was imposed in state schools 13 years ago. He said: “We are not seeking a return to a Dickensian age of six of the best. What we are seeking is reasonable, moderate and loving discipline. It has a beneficial effect on some children; they understand where the boundaries of acceptability are and they become responsible citizens in society.”

Mr Williamson uses a “paddle” — a wooden ruler — to hit older boys, and girls are given the strap. Pupils under 10 are smacked on the hand or leg. He said that 90 per cent of the 200 children at his school, aged four to 16, never got smacked.

Peter Newell, co-ordinator of the End Physical Punishment of Children campaign, rejected Mr Williamson’s claims and said that the legal challenge had “no hope” of success. He said: “Teachers have for a long time supported abolition and the Independent Schools’ Joint Council which represents more than 80 per cent of independent schools has also supported this. This is just a tiny minority of schools bringing this action.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment rejected Mr Williamson’s claims, saying: “There is no firm evidence to back up what he has said about assaults on teachers.”