Reuters, September 2, 1999
Ban on corporal punishment now applies to Britain's private schools
ENGLAND: School beatings were finally banned from Britain's private schools Wednesday, drawing sighs of relief from schoolchildren, but an angry backlash from a group of independent schools who swear by the cane. A group of 40 independent Christian school leaders said it would go to the European Court of Human Rights later this year to try to have the ban lifted.
Caning was banned in state-run schools 13 years ago but the ban has only just been implemented in the private sector.
Philip Williamson, headmaster of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, which is spearheading the protest, argues the ruling interferes with parents' right to choose the way their child is educated and disciplined.
"I believe the government should not intervene in how parents bring up their children. This is dictatorial and an example of the nanny state," Williamson told Reuters.
He said he couldn't remember the last time he used his cane, but said in a bad month he would typically reach for the ruler three times. Slaps and smacks were the administered for "any breaking of the moral code."
However most of Britain's fee-paying schools welcomed the end to an archaic tradition which they said hindered education.
"Many independent schools concluded, long before any form of legal ban was contemplated, that corporal punishment impeded good education," said Ian Beer, head of the Independent Schools Council, a group of 1,300 independent schools.
Britain's Department of Education was unfazed by the Christian schools' threats.
"The European Union is itself against corporal punishment so it is unlikely to uphold any arguments that the new provision against caning is an infringement of human rights," a department spokeswoman said.
Corporal punishment is not the only bone of contention to rack Britain's schooling system this summer, however. A girl in northern England has threatened to take her school to court because she is not allowed to wear trousers in class.
The government-funded Equal Opportunities Commission has said it will back her claim.