Ofsted found pupils in private school were still being slapped despite ban on physical punishment. Was telling the school to rewrite its policy really sufficient?

Janet Downs's picture
'Some pupils told the inspector that there had been incidents where a teacher had given a small ‘slap’ with the hand and others said that this was sometimes threatened as a punishment.'

Emergency inspection, January 2014, Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz School, a boys’ private primary school in London.

Corporal punishment in state schools was banned in 1987. Twelve years later it was banned in independent schools in England and Wales. If schools break this law then some proceedings should surely follow.

But when slapping was discovered at Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz School in January’s emergency inspection, Ofsted ordered the school to rewrite its behaviour policy to make it clear corporal punishment was neither to be used nor threatened.

A full inspection of the school in June found the policy had been amended and pupils indicated the policy had taken effect. However, the school was judged Inadequate on all four counts.

If inspectors found a school was still allowing children to be hit in January 2014 then requesting a change in the school's policy is surely insufficient. The inspection raised many more concerns including curriculum, health and safety issues, and poor supervision. But administering corporal punishment in schools is against the Law.

There are also questions about whether parents were aware corporal punishment had taken place at their children’s school. If so, what did they do about it? If they considered such punishment appropriate, are they complicit in child abuse?

One parent, talking anonymously to The Times, said the punishment ‘is usually smacking with an open hand on the face or round the back of the head if they are answering back’. It’s unclear from the short extract on Schools Improvement Net whether this was a parent at Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz or another school named by the Times*. But such chastisement is unacceptable wherever it took place.

Corporal punishment aside, Ofsted found the curriculum at Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz was too narrow. Religious studies dominated – secular subjects were sidelined. Years 1 and 2 had no secular subjects at all and had no lessons in spoken or written English. In Years 5 to 8, the ten hour day contained only one-and-a-half hours of non-religious education.

Unsurprisingly, parents believed their children were well-prepared for life in their own community. Surprisingly, however, they also thought their children were prepared well for life in the wider world.

But such a narrow curriculum doesn’t prepare children for life outside the narrow confines of a faith community. It denies children a right to a full education. And when those in authority hit children it's not just illegal, it's abuse.

* The Times named another private school, Talmud Torah Yetev Lev, London, where an emergency inspection had taken place in June 2014. Ofsted found procedures for ensuring pupils’ welfare, health and safety were inadequate although there was no mention of corporal punishment. This emergency inspection looked only at welfare, health and safety. It did not consider the curriculum or teaching.

Inspection reports can be downloaded here and here.
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