The State Government will review the use of corporal punishment in non-government schools, as calls grow for the practice to be banned in Victoria.
Education Minister Lynne Kosky said the Government would consider the issue as part of the first overhaul of private-school registration in almost a century. But she refused to be drawn on whether she would ban the practice altogether, despite pressure to do so from the independent school teachers' union.
Corporal punishment was banned in public and Catholic schools about 20 years ago, but is still used as a form of discipline in a small number of independent schools.
Victorian Independent Education Union general secretary Tony Keenan told The Age that schools that physically punished students should not be allowed to be registered. "Why, in 2004, would the State Government allow a school that uses corporal punishment to be registered when it's outlawed in other states?" Mr Keenan said.
Ms Kosky said the practice would be considered as part of a review of the 46-year-old Education Act, part of which involves revamping the Registered Schools Board, the body that registers non-government schools. A report with recommendations to improve the system is with the Government.
Association of Independent Schools of Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said she believed there were "less than a handful" of schools that still used corporal punishment in Victoria.
One school is the Frank Dando Sports Academy, in Ashwood, which teaches students with social or emotional problems. But vice-principal Ziad Zacharia said corporal punishment was so rare at the school that "it wouldn't affect us at all" if it was banned. Instead, students learnt self-discipline through a reward system giving them "credit points" for good behaviour, he said.
St Michael's Grammar School in St Kilda employed corporal punishment until about six years ago, when principal Simon Gipson took over as head and denounced it as "abhorrent". It has also been scrapped at Heathdale Christian College, where it was used 10 years ago. "The times have changed, it's as simple as that," principal Reynald Tibben said yesterday.
Ms Green said that while many people opposed the practice, parents who sent their children to schools where corporal punishment took place "know what they're going to get".
"And don't forget, they've got the right to take their child out of a school," Ms Green said.
Corporal punishment has long been a contentious issue. In 2001, the Christian Community Schools group said using "the hand or flat instrument on the buttocks is appropriate in some circumstances". In the same year, a former NSW student successfully sued the Trustees of the Catholic Church and an ex-teacher for repeated strappings, which he claimed had permanently damaged his right hand.
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