Head of 10-pupil school suspended ‘for smacking’

By Paul Stokes

THE headmistress of a village school with only 10 pupils has been suspended after parents alleged that she had smacked some children.

Police are investigating their complaints against Elizabeth Carey, 51, of Milfield First School, near Wooler, Northumberland. Education officials are also conducting an inquiry. A member of staff alleged that she had witnessed inappropriate behaviour by the head.

Miss Carey has been head for six years and lives 35 miles away in Ashington. The school received a reprieve from closure by Northumberland county council after a campaign by parents this year. An independent adjudicator decided that closure could not be justified under the Government’s policy of supporting rural schools.

A mother said: “This whole situation has been very shocking for us all, but the most important thing is the welfare of the children. We’re also worried for the reputation of the school and hope this doesn’t put its future in doubt again.”

Another mother said she had made inquiries of other mothers after hearing pupils allege that a child had been smacked. She said: “I contacted the local authority and officials came to the school.”

Another mother said her son had alleged that he had been smacked and did not want to go to school. She said: “A social worker has visited all the kids and the police have been round twice.”

Milfield First, which has pupils aged from four to nine, is now being run by Judith Forbes, a teacher at the school, where no one was available for comment.

Derek Smilbert, chairman of the school governors, said he had instructed the authorities to investigate. He said: “At this stage, to be fair, I can’t say any more.” The county council confirmed that Miss Carey had been suspended.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000


Corpun file 6400

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BBC News On Line, 23 November 2000

Northern Ireland

Caning ban to face court challenge

Plans to impose a ban on corporal punishment in Northern Ireland’s independent schools would be challenged in the courts, according to the education board of the Free Presbyterian Church.

The Department of Education has said it has plans to introduce legislation to extend a ban in state supported schools to those in the independent sector.

But the Free Presbyterians, who run seven schools where corporal punishment is still employed, say such a ban would be contrary to the word of God.

The convenor of the Free Presbyterian education board, the Reverend Ivan Foster, said “innumerable” pupils had been suspended and a “long list of teachers forced to take early retirement because of the lawlessness that exists within the classroom”.

“All that is caused by the turning away from the God-ordained means of discipline within the home, an element of which is physical punishment.”

Mr Foster quoted biblical tracts to support his case for the retention of corporal punishment.

“As a Christian, I believe that an essential part of my faith is that sin is followed by God’s judgement.

“Because of that I must teach my child that this is so and put that principle into practice and when my child persistently does wrong then I must show pain will follow persistent disobedience,” he added.

Colin Reid for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the proposed reforms would bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with legislation in England and Wales where smacking in private schools was outlawed in 1998.

“We need to ensure that children, when they are away from home, are offered the very best protection.

“This is a protection for staff as well by establishing the only clear standard – that is there is no corporal punishment in schools.”

He pointed to the case of a schoolchild who died as a result of corporal punishment administered by a headmaster in 1860.

Mr Foster said it was unfair to cite an “isolated incident from the last century”.

“It is not right to confuse proper physical punishment carried out in love with the crime of brutally inflicting pain and suffering on a child.”

Earlier this year, children marched through the streets of London to protest against smacking and otherwise physically rebuking young people.

In 1998 a survey by the Office of National Statistics found that 88% of parents felt smacking was sometimes necessary but only 7% approved of caning.

Smacking has already been banned in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia and Latvia.

Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland are all in the process of legislating against physically rebuking children.

But in the United States the law varies from state to state, with caning still allowed.