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Monday, August 30, 1999 Published at 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK


Schools take caning case to Europe

The schools say punishment can help build character

A group of religious schools is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to be allowed to continue caning children.

Corporal punishment, which has been illegal in state schools since 1987, will be banned in all schools from this week.

But head teachers and governors from 40 schools belonging to the Christian Schools Trust argue that moderate physical punishment can form part of a character-building education.

Head Phil Williamson: "This is about parental rights"
The campaign is being led by Phil Williamson, head of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool.

He told the BBC: "We believe that this method of bringing up children, that is in the context of a loving relationship, has been tried and tested for centuries and centuries. It's part of a Judeo-Christian heritage.

"Since 1987 the number of teacher assaults has gone up in schools, the number of exclusions has gone up, teenage crime has gone up.

[ image: Corporal punishment is part of our heritage, says the trust]
Corporal punishment is part of our heritage, says the trust
"We believe that the government is involved in a whole social experiment here that is going wrong, and they ought to read the writing on the wall."

Mr Williamson's school uses a strap to punish girls and a wooden bat for boys, but he says only a small proportion of children are ever smacked.

All the parents give written permission for corporal punishment to be used.

"The issue is that parents should have the right to call the tune here. I'm acting on behalf of parents who want the form of discipline and correction and the secure loving atmosphere that is in our schools. They don't want mayhem," said Mr Williamson.

He was not confident that the court would rule in the trust's favour, but said it was important to register a protest against the government's decision.

Most childcare organisations support the banning of corporal punishment in schools.

Dr Sam Bechler: "We have lost the element of fear"
But Dr Sam Bechler, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who has studied violence in schools, believes these schools should be allowed to retain corporal punishment.

He said that while some children would never alter their behaviour, there was evidence that it did work, especially in private schools.

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