We don’t want “barbaric” cane to return’

By Macer Hall
Political Editor

Alan Johnson

ALAN Johnson ruled out returning to traditional school discipline yesterday – because of his own memories of “barbaric” corporal punishment.

And he even singled out a former teacher who he said was dedicated to using the cane.

On the day schools were given authority to check pupils for guns and knives, the Education Secretary insisted the Government was against returning to the era of a “clip round the ear”.

“I went through the kind of childhood at a school where teachers were allowed to do barbaric things in terms of caning,” said Mr Johnson, 57, who left school with no qualifications.

In an interview on Radio 4 he singled out a Mr Hughes – thought to be at Bevington Primary in Kensington, west London, in the 1950s.

He said the teacher “used to cane you across the wrist rather than across the hand.

“I don’t think that’s the right solution at all.”

The experience affected him “adversely”, he said, adding: “It was an adult, someone in a position of authority, being violent towards me.” But campaigners called for a return to traditional classroom methods.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said searching children in schools was “a clear sign that discipline standards have fallen drastically”.

He added: “The cane wasn’t all that barbaric, it was certainly far less brutal than allowing youngsters to run around with knives stabbing each other.

“A return to corporal punishment doesn’t seem likely, but discipline in schools has become far too lax over recent years and ministers must take some of the responsibility for that.”