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EDITIONS
Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 17:26 GMT
School smacking case thrown out
Smacking graphic
A High Court judge has rejected a plea by a Christian school on Merseyside to review the government's refusal to sanction corporal punishment.

The private Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool wants to be able to smack pupils with parental consent.

But Mr Justice Elias said: "In my judgment, section 548 of the Education Act ... gives effect to a clear Parliamentary intention to abolish corporal punishment in all schools, including all independent schools."

Speaking after the judgement at Birmingham Crown Court, the school's head teacher, Phil Williamson, said: "What we are saying is for some issues in disciplining children, there is a Biblical mandate there for it.

A violent response by an authority figure merely serves to validate the child's own violence

Peter Smith, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

"We now have to sit down, read the judgment and decide what to do."

The Director of the National Society for the Protection of Children, Mary Marsh, said: "This is good news for children, and for parents and teachers who need our help and support in achieving non-violent discipline at school, at home, and in the community."

Mr Williamson said: "Unfortunately today there is a very great disrespect for the law and we are producing a lawless society.

"What we are trying to do is perfectly reasonable, the problem is it is being mixed up with child abuse."

In 1999 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg said there was nothing to prevent schools smacking children if their parents approved.

But the UK Government disagreed, insisting corporal punishment was illegal.

Head teacher Phil Williamson
Phil Williamson feels smacking is reasonable
When the case opened before Mr Justice Elias, texts from the Bible were cited to counter the government's interpretation of the law.

He was referred to passages from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, such as Chapter 22:15: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him".

The Christian Fellowship school, where fees are 1,920 a year, takes pupils aged four to 16 from all Christian denominations.

Two mothers who supported Mr Williamson and sent their children to his school said: "Behaviour has deteriorated ... sometimes you can't sit down and talk to children and negotiate.

Smack 'not evil'

"Sometimes it has to be punishment in the form of a smack.

"It is not a wicked and evil act, it is actually just a way of putting something across that you should not do that again."

Child safety campaigners had argued that corporal punishment was unnecessary and only encouraged cruelty.

The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Peter Smith said: "While we respect the rights of parents to discipline their children, we are relieved that the court has not supported the reintroduction of corporal punishment to Britain's schools.

Opposite view

"There is widespread concern over the deteriorating behaviour of pupils in schools.

"We know that this is driving teachers out of the profession and making the job of teaching unmanageable.

"But we do not see how violent punishment, even in the form of a smack, would reduce the amount of aggression in schools.

"A violent response by an authority figure merely serves to validate the child's own violence."

Violent example

A spokesman for the NSPCC told BBC News Online: "Teachers and children's campaigners fought long and hard to abolish corporal punishment in all schools.

"We should all be proud about this and be absolutely steadfast in defending it."

But Mr Williamson said: "There is no harm done to the child.

"There is an awful lot of benefit for them to realise they must have done something wrong, for example lying, stealing, bullying, cheating.

'Moral absolutes'

"We are looking at moral absolutes here ... it is always wrong to lie," he added.

The school had asked the judge to decide whether the 1996 Education Act, as amended by section 131 of the 1998 School Standards and Framework Act, "completely abolishes the use of physical punishment in independent schools".

It had argued that, if it did, it breached the human rights of Christians.

This view has been rejected by the judgement.


Click here to go to Liverpool

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Corporal punishment
Is it needed in the classroom?
See also:

02 Nov 01 | Education
07 Jan 00 | Education
07 Jan 00 | Education
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