How sad that so many parents believe in bringing back the cane...

Francis Gilbert's picture
A new survey conducted by the Times Educational Supplement has discovered apparently that half of parents want to bring back the cane. As a teacher, I can only say that I feel dismayed if this is really true; I would be interested to see the nature of the questions and the cross section of parents asked. It's interesting to see that men believe in corporal punishment more than women; parental support for the cane is higher among men, at 58 per cent, than women, at 40 per cent. There are also regional variations, with support highest in Yorkshire, where the return of corporal punishment is backed by 56 per cent of parents, compared with just 32 per cent in the north of Scotland.

This information is troubling on a number of counts. Firstly, it indicates that the whole "discipline" debate has scarcely moved on in fifty years amongst the public. In countries where corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed for nearly a century and there are parental bans on it-- such as some Scandinavian countries -- the language used about children is very different; there is very little discourse about "controlling children by fear", and a general focus upon examining the reasons why children are not behaving and addressing them directly rather than punishing them.

Secondly, this survey suggests that many parents feel quite erroneously that our classrooms are generally in a state of uproar. Nothing could be further from the truth; as Ofsted noted in its last annual report, behaviour is good or better in 86% of schools. Furthermore, other surveys show that parents are, by and large, happy with their children's schools. Thirdly, it gives the impression that many parents condone what amounts to child abuse; hitting children is just plain morally wrong and is child abuse. That's why it's illegal! The NSPCC has run some good campaigns about this issue and their advice is well worth reading.

We desperately need to raise the level of debate about this issue in this country and look beyond these knee-jerk reactions. The general public needs to be aware of the damage that hitting children does; they need to learn that hitting children is actually "anti-learning" in that hitting them causes a "flight or fight" response in the brain, inducing panic rather than  helping them think rationally. Personally, I've found that I only genuinely help children who have behavioural issues when they are relatively calm; shouting at them when they're angry is often pointless and counter-productive. Hitting them certainly wouldn't help and, if it were a sanction available to teachers now, would almost certainly lead to greater violence in our schools. Good discipline is about children understanding the reasons why they need to behave, about encouraging them to "self-regulate", that's what good education is about. Corporal punishment is simply not rational.

I appeared on Daybreak talking about this issue with a teacher Simon Warr, who gave a very guarded defence of corporal punishment, but much preferred to slag off state schools generally instead. Surprise, surprise, he teaches in a private school.

Please read Unicef's important report on this if you remain unconvinced.

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ChampangeSocialistNetwork's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 20:44

I saw this in the paper aswell, just a glance didn't bother to buy the paper. Being educated from a bog-standard comp myself and watching quite often how either powerless or useless most teachers were in controlling the class. This doesn't surprise me one bit. I knew someone here would have something to say about it and knew it would obviously be against.
Well Francis, the fact is I think even a majority of people in this country (regardless of whether you like it or not) want more discipline in the classroom and a return to a more traditional teaching approach in Secondary education. A survey that conveys that 93% of parents asked wanted the Cane back could be seen as knee-jerking,but also 68% of PUPILS also stated that must indicate that indeed there is a real problem that needs to be faced. I don't believe the cane is the answer, but I do believe that the "hug a hoodie"
approach used is part of the problem. Also the amount of bureaucracy a school has to go through in order to Expel ONE trouble-making pupil is part of the problem. I knew one girl at school who had done a list of things that each one alone should of got her expelled including attack a teacher infront of the whole class & lighting a sparkler in a classroom etc. But it took the list to mount up and many years before she was expelled, I actually suspect she wasn't expelled but transferred to another facility agreed upon by both parties. This was just one girl, there were many others like her and many who were worse yet had no real action against them until it was too late.

Now, personally I am against the Cane being used in Schools this could easily be used as an abuse of power by any twisted individual, but I do believe firm discipline needs to injected back into our classrooms & the teacher needs to have that authoritative figure they once had. The touchy feely approach doesn't work infact it makes things worse.
Ofsted is a joke & by no means fit for purpose in regards to identifying or underlying
the real problems or even spotting the main problems themselves within our schools.

btw Your swipe at private schools at the end is a bit childish.

Henry Stewart's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 09:28

This reminds me of a brief experience teaching in Croxteth, Liverpool, in 1982. The school had been occupied to prevent its closure and the volunteer teachers decided to abolish corporal punishment.

Some of the loudest protests came from the kids. I remember one of them saying "But, sir, you can't get rid of the cane. Its the only way to keep us under control". I asked him how many times he had been caned last year. His answer was rather astonishing: "34".

One thing was clear. As a deterrent to bad behaviour, it clearly had not worked.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 10:31

I don't usually find myself agreeing with Michael Gove, but here in a 2010 interveiw with the Independent he speaks of being beaten at school and insists: "We are definitely better off for the fact that we no longer beat children."

I wonder if the survey asked parents if they supported corporal punishment at school if their own child were to be beaten? I suspect supporters are happy for other children to be beaten, while at the same time believing their own children are not the troublemakers disrupting classes.

Sadly many children are witness to, and the victims of, appalling violence in their own homes or communities and become both traumatised and hardened to it effects. The last thing they need is physical abuse from a teacher in their school. Respect is not gained through fear of corporal "discipline" but through inspiration and communication.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 15:07

The article in the TES made it quite clear that the response from the Department for Education was this: "There is no intention of ever reintroducing corporal punishment".

When I first started teaching I was in a school where pupils, girls as well as boys, were caned. It was always the same lads who were lined up outside the deputy head's office so it was obviously having no effect on their behaviour. In fact, it was seen as a badge of honour.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 17:06

You got there before me, Allan. To have any value such a survey must include the stated willigness of respondents' own children to be subject to corporal punishmnent.

A few other points. This survey actually showed a decline in the number wanting a return of CP since the last time it was carried (2000). This fact wasn't publicised much.

Also to read some comments on this issue you would assume it was abolished in the horrendously liberal sixties rather than 1986. Do people who think schools are all out of control really believe they were orderly and quiet in the early eighties?

It's certainly not what commentators were claiming then.

Finally, why so little mention in discussions on the topic of the fact that official reports on child abuse in Ireland and elsewhere make clear the strong link between physical and sexual abuse

Nigel Ford's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 22:11

One of my earliest memories of (prep) school was as a 5 year old back in 1964 having to witness an older boy being caned by the Headmaster in front of the whole assembly.

You wouldn't treat a recalictrant pet dog this way, why a child?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 21/09/2011 - 07:40

No prizes for guessing which newspaper ran this headline which implies that the return of corporal punishment is an option which is being seriously considered:

“Bring back the cane, say half of parents as Cameron pledges to restore order in schools following riots”

How careless of the journalist not to check with the DfE first (see my post above).

ChampagneSocialistNetwork's picture
Wed, 21/09/2011 - 11:36

I actually saw it in the Express (but didn't bother to buy the paper though) aswell. So it's not just the mail. I doubt this government would bring back corporal punishment for obvious reasons both moral & practical. Especially since we are stuck in the EU which forbids its practice. Cane or not discipline in Secondary schools is a nightmare & the touchy feely approach has failed.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 21/09/2011 - 12:14

Well. Good job Cameron has stopped telling us to hug hoodies then

Richard Taylor's picture
Fri, 28/10/2011 - 10:36

Man bites dog - it sells newspapers but masks the real issue, which is discipline. What most parents would like is a well-enunciated school discipline policy, one that this is consistently enforced from the top down. The red herring about the reintroduction of corporal punishment is actually a proxy for parental frustration at inadequate basic discipline. I saw this when a new headteacher took over the state primary school attended by my nephews. It was an average Australian country school and they were reasonably happy there. Then under the new regime the discipline policy went haywire – for example one child was suspended for swearing while another who king-hit another child (the victim had to be treated in hospital) was simply kept in over lunchtime.

As things slid downhill, my brother and his wife (who are both minimum wage earners who would be 'better off' on welfare) made a choice about their son's education. But before they did both went to see the headteacher and the classroom teachers to discuss their concerns. These were completely dismissed by the education professionals knew what was 'educationally right'.
In the end they decided to send the boys to local Catholic private schools (primary and secondary). This is a huge financial strain (combined fees of A$10k per year), but the boys now in schools where they are happy, confident and learning. The difference with England is that their working class parent's actually had real educational choice.

When I saw they boy's 6 weeks ago they were happy confident learners, both of whom thought they might like to be tradesmen, but realised they would need to complete year 12 to have any chance at securing an apprenticeship. Yes, they could both probably go to university (and may well eventually), but this will be their choice, something their father, who was forced to leave the terrible local high school at 14, was denied.

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