‘If it was legal, I’d bring back cane’

THE controversial co-founder of one of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship free schools has said he would happily bring back corporal punishment if he were allowed. Writer and journalist Toby Young, who is chairman of governors of the West London Free School in Hammersmith, says that he was regularly beaten at school by his PE teacher but found the experience character-forming. The 48-year-old, who failed most of his O-levels, but got a first in philosophy after being mistakenly accepted for a place at Oxford, spoke fondly of his former gym teacher, a Greek Cypriot who regularly beat his pupils with a shoe. Young said that despite the teacher’s reign of terror, which ended after a pupil’s mother complained, the punishment he dished out helped to keep discipline and focus pupils’ minds. He said: “It’s more than 35 years since I last set eyes on my secondary school PE teacher and I can’t now remember his name. But I do recall his nickname, we called him Mr Smack-em-hard-es. “He was a small, wiry man in his midthirties, always cheerful and energetic. A pretty good PE teacher. “Now, many years later, I am the co-founder of a school and I would have to decide whether to allow corporal punishment there if the law should change. I think the answer is yes, but only for exceptionally bad behaviour. “I can imagine circumstances in which beating a boy — never a girl — would be preferable to expelling him, for his sake, rather than the school’s. “And perhaps the knowledge that the school could administer this ultimate punishment would stop the pupils from behaving too badly.”