Caning for “slap happy” school

By Jane Warner

ISLINGTON’S “model” school, Highbury Grove, has been accused of viciously overstepping the mark on corporal punishment.

It is alleged that the school “publicly” punishes pupils and often with implements forbidden under Inner London Education Authority rules.

But Highbury Grove headmaster, Mr Laurie Norcross, dismissed the allegations, and claimed that parents complained that corporal punishment was not used often enough.

The school came in for a caning during the launching of a campaign to stop ILEA’s punishment rules being broken. The campaign is being organised by the 12,000-strong National Union of School Students, based at King’s Cross.

At the NUSS meeting, ex-Highbury Grove pupil, 16-year-old Toby Holloway, claimed he had been slippered on average once a term at the school, often in front of classmates. Both actions are against ILEA rules on corporal punishment.

Toby, who lives in Fieldway Crescent, Islington, and [sic] is now studying for CSEs at Woodbury Down School.

The NUSS claim that rules are being blatantly ignored and it has compiled a dossier on punishments in 20 ILEA schools, including Highbury Grove, and two other Islington schools.

They say pupils in the 20 schools are hit with plimsolls, drumsticks, books, board rubbers and a plastic mallet with a stud on the end.

One metalwork teacher even whipped boys with a 2ft length of rubber tubing, they said.

The rules in Inner London say teachers are only allowed to hit children with their open hand or a cane, not with plimsolls or other equipment.

All corporal punishment must take place in private. Women teachers are not allowed to cane boys, they can only slap them, and male teachers must not slap or cane girls.

Only certain teachers are allowed to administer corporal punishment, and details must be written down.

A leaflet with these rules is being distributed to thousands of London schoolchildren by the NUSS, with instructions to get in touch with them if the rules are being broken.

Toby, who admitted to being “relatively unruly”, said he thought some rules were being broken at Highbury Grove, which he left nearly three years ago.

He said the level of caning had gone up since the former head Dr Rhodes Boyson, now Shadow Education Secretary, left.

“I don’t think the punishments stopped bad behaviour,” he said. “I have never been caned at my present school and I think I behave better and study harder.”

But the present headmaster, Mr Laurie Norcross, dismissed the allegations of rule-breaking.

“I can’t disprove them but this boy, who left a long time ago, can’t prove them either,” he said.

“I never received a complaint from him or his parents about the way he was treated while he was here and I think it’s strange that he should start now.

“Parents back me all the way on caning — their only complaint is that it’s not carried out often enough.

“If the majority of parents were against corporal punishment I might consider stopping it. But I’m not going to be ruled by an irresponsible minority like the NUSS.”