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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
School appeals over smacking ban
Phil Williamson and daughter Helen
Defiant headmaster Phil Williamson with daughter Helen
An independent Christian school in Merseyside is taking its fight for the right to smack pupils to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

The headmaster of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, Phil Williamson, says there is a "biblical mandate" for corporal punishment.

The school has already lost one court attempt to be allowed to use force to discipline pupils.

Forty other religious schools throughout England are supporting the appeal.

Religious beliefs

The school is appealing against the High Court's decision to block a judicial review of whether laws banning corporal punishment apply to independent as well as state schools.

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

It claims current legislation breaches the right of Christians to practise their religion according to their beliefs, as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a joint statement, the 40 schools supporting Mr Williamson, said: "Schools want to be in control of their own destiny and not be condemned to the inevitable decline in standards if our case is lost.

We want to contest the idea that hitting children is the normal thing to do.

NSPCC director, Mary Marsh

"They are convinced that the way forward is not to put police in the classroom or to remove child benefit from parents for being unable to control their children, but to restore basic parenting skills and parental rights."

In rejecting the school's application for a judicial review in 2001, Mr Justice Elias said: "In my judgment, section 548 of the Education Act (1996), gives effect to a clear Parliamentary intention to abolish corporal punishment in all schools, including all independent schools.

"This legislation does not infringe the human rights of any of the claimants."

Public education

The National Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Children (NSPCC) has launched a public education campaign to show how ineffective smacking is, and to look at alternative ways of encouraging children to behave.

NSPCC director, Mary Marsh said: "We want to contest the idea that hitting children is the normal thing to do.

"It's not. It's wrong, ineffective and can be harmful."

According to a NSPCC survey, 63% of women and 53% of men in the UK would support a law to protect children from being hit.

Click here to go to Liverpool
See also:

08 May 02 | UK
Parents 'upset' by smacking
15 Nov 01 | England
School smacking case thrown out
02 Nov 01 | Education
School says Bible permits smacking
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