Cane still needed as ‘sharp lesson’

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POLITICIANS WHO slam corporal punishment came in for a caning from a Leyton head teacher on Monday.

Said George Mitchell High School head Peter Gee: “It seems as though it’s only the politicians who do all the complaining. But I wonder whether they would be prepared to come and keep discipline in our schools.”

Caning has been greatly reduced in Waltham Forest, he told Schools Committee members on Monday.

“But I don’t know any answer to school bullying or swearing at teachers other than a sharp lesson with the cane.”

“I’ve never had any complaints from parents. They all give me full permission to take action if their child steps out of line.”

Football referees would not be able to control matches unless they had powers of punishment — and the same goes for teachers in school, the committee heard.

“But you never heard of a football referee kicking a player who had misbehaved,” said Labour Councillor Mike McNulty, a well-known opponent of corporal punishment.

He welcomed the continued decline of caning in Primary Schools — there were just 21 cases last year compared with 46 for 1974-75.

Caning in Senior Highs remained roughly the same with about 200 pupils feeling the sharp edge of school discipline.

But the middle-range High Schools did beat more children. Figures for 1976-77 show the cane was used 339 times compared with 289 for the preceding year, though there was a slight increase in the school population.

“But the total represents an increase of less than one in 200 of the total High School population,” said borough Chief Education Officer Alan Hartley.

“Five High Schools out of Waltham Forest’s total 17 used no corporal punishment at all.”

Reasons for caning are varied, he added. “But the main ones are fighting, bullying or swearing. Children often need to be deterred early on. If they wilfully disrupt lessons they ought to be reminded,” he said.

Closing discussion on the annual survey of corporal punishment Labour Councillor Terry Messenger said: “In the last analysis caning is the only way to deal with some pupils. Teachers have a duty to perform — and they perform it very much as parents expect them to.”