Christian school to smack pupils

By Jonathan Petre, Education Correspondent

AN INDEPENDENT school is introducing corporal punishment in defiance of the accepted wisdom of the British education system over the past 10 years.

Pupils at the Bradford Christian School in West Yorkshire, which describes its approach as bible-based, could face a smack on the bottom from the headmaster when the policy begins in September.

The school, which is believed to be the first to revive smacking since corporal punishment was almost completely phased out following the passing of the 1986 Children’s Act, says punishment will be administered only with parental consent.

The governors, including an Anglican and a Baptist minister, said they made the decision after “much prayer”. However, it has provoked fierce criticism from politicians and educationalists.

Paul Cripp, a local businessman who is the chairman of the governors, said the school would not be deterred by the criticism. “That is the wisdom of the world,” he said. “We are praying that God will be glorified by our decision.”

He said the school did not have a problem with discipline but felt the introduction of corporal punishment was a positive move. He said it had the support of parents and pupils, a quarter of whom came from non-Christian backgrounds. Philip Moon, the headmaster, said: “We understand the climate in which we are suggesting this. Some people want to bring back the birch to sort out society’s ills, but we don’t want that.”

He said smacking would be used only as a last resort after discussions with the parents, and the age and sex of the child would also be taken into account. The parents might choose to come into the school and administer the punishment themselves, he added.

Backing for the move came from Steve Richards, the headmaster of the independent Christian Fellowship School in Toxteth, Liverpool, who has used corporal punishment for 15 years.

“Parents want their children to be in a caring school, and that also means an ordered school where justice is present. But corporal punishment must never be used to injure or publicly humiliate a child,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Union of Teachers described the move as a return to the Dark Ages, while Terry Rooney, Labour MP for Bradford North, condemned it as barbaric.

“I am totally against corporal punishment of any sort,” he said. “It should be unnecessary if you have good teachers.”

Jim Harding, director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said the move was a retrograde step.

“Such punishment only legitimises violence against children as acceptable behaviour.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev David Smith, was also doubtful. “It is a matter of fine judgement and I would not send children of mine to a school in which corporal punishment is used.”

Corporal punishment was outlawed in state schools by the 1986 Children’s Act and is also banned by the European Court of Human Rights. Isis, the body which represents mainstream fee-paying schools, said only St James’s Independent School for Boys in London, retained the practice.

Eton phased out caning in the early 1980s and Rugby, the setting for Tom Brown’s Schooldays, last beat a boy in 1970. Winchester has not used the cane for decades and Radley also abolished it in the 1970s.