Teachers in sorry mess

SIR – Your story (November 11) about an English headmistress, of previously unblemished character, now facing potential criminal charges for the alleged slapping of a child, shows the sorry mess into which Parliament has put teachers.

I taught for about 17 years in a Valleys comprehensive school. In 1982, I believe, corporal punishment was withdrawn and discipline declined overnight.

A very few teachers were sadists who enjoyed caning; even fewer had such charisma that upon their entering a classroom, their very presence held the children immediately.

Most of us however were ‘middle of the road’, punishing only when necessary. The classes of some whose moral scruples forbade their using physical punishment, were often circuses and any order restored at all was by others using corporal punishment on their behalf.

Some children can be reasoned with and are amenable to polite requests. Most are immature however – after all, they are children.

Perhaps those who legislated out moderate corporal punishment might now like to enter teaching and see what a mess they have made!

Castle Buildings, Treforest, Pontypridd



Corpun file 12477


Liverpool Daily Post, 29 November 2003

Head who stopped smacking claims discipline in schools is worse

Case going to House of Lords

By Laura Davis

A HEADTEACHER has claimed that discipline at his Christian school has deteriorated since he was banned from beating his pupils.

Phil Williamson, head of the Christian Fellowship School, Edge Hill, claims pupils’ bad behaviour has escalated since teachers were banned from using corporal punishment.

The head is trying to use the courts to overturn the ban.

His battle will now be judged by the highest court in the land as he has won the right to have it considered by the House of Lords.

Mr Williamson said: “We are really worried about the deterioration in behaviour.

“All that we are doing now is talking to children, depriving them of a break or telling them to stand outside the staffroom.

“Children have to be taught how to behave in a community and talking doesn’t really do the job.

“A little smack on the hand or leg doesn’t take the time and is more effective.”

Mr Williamson is leading a group of teachers and parents representing independent schools to challenge an Appeal Court decision last December dismissing their bid to resurrect corporal punishment in schools.

They claim that it is the Bible’s philosophy to sanction the smacking of children who misbehave.

The group’s counsel, Paul Diamond, argued at the earlier hearings that “In biblical doctrine, children are a gift from God, but parents have responsibility for care, instruction, nurturing and disciplining”.

“It is a central tenet of the Christian religion that mankind is born with a heart inclined to all kinds of evil.

“Disciplining in the educational context is therefore vital.

“It is not an optional extra, but corporal punishment is expressly sanctioned, approved and may be necessary.”

In a written decision, the law lords said the case for the new appeal centres on the provisions of the 1996 Education Act which prohibits teachers from administering corporal punishment in schools.

They added that one of the main questions will be whether the provisions of the 1996 Act infringe the human rights of teachers and parents in independent schools which practise corporal punishment in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Mr Williamson said: “The Appeal Court judgment was somewhat unusual.

“The judges said human rights and religious rights were infringed, but only minimally, so found against us.

“But, if it is true that religious rights have been infringed, then we should have won the case.

“We feel that we still have quite an opportunity to win the case overall.”