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1982: Parents can stop school beatings

VIDEO : Parents and teachers discuss corporal punishment

Corporal punishment in Britain's schools has been dealt a blow by the European Court of Human Rights.

It has ruled that beating schoolchildren against their parents' wishes is a violation of the Human Rights Convention because parents should have their children taught "in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions".

It is a legally binding decision and ends a four-year court battle brought by two Scottish mothers, Grace Campbell and Jane Cosans.

In 1979, Mrs Campbell brought her private case to court when Strathclyde regional education authority refused to guarantee her 11-year-old son would not be beaten with the tawse, a leather strap used to beat the palm of the hand.

Strathclyde has since banned the tawse.


"My advice to members is - carry on caning"

David Hart, teachers' union

Mrs Cosans' son was suspended for refusing to report for the belt after breaking a rule and Fife regional education authority also refused to guarantee he would not be beaten.

David Hart, general secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers said the judgement - which does not ban caning - will cause confusion in schools which will have to distinguish between children who are allowed to be beaten and those who are not.

"You cannot have one section of pupils who may be subject to punishment and another section who cannot be punished," he said.

"My advice to members is - carry on caning."


"A tremendous day for children, parents, teachers and society as a whole "

Tom Scott, Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment

Tom Scott of Stopp, the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment, welcomed the ruling.

"It is a tremendous day for children, parents, teachers and society as a whole because corporal punishment is not only nasty and humiliating, it is counter-productive," he said.

Mrs Campbell said she was pleased by the judgement.

"The result of the case will benefit all British children," she said.

Britain is the only country in western Europe that still allows corporal punishment in schools.

It was outlawed in the Republic of Ireland last year and has been banned in France since World War I.

A third of Britain's 35,000 schools already ban beatings.

The government says it will have to study the 40-page ruling before it can make any decision on changing the law.

In Context
In 1986, beatings in state schools were outlawed.

The ban was not extended to fee-paying schools until March 1998.

All physical punishment of children - at home or at school - is banned in eight European countries: Sweden, Cyprus, Latvia, Croatia, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Finland.

From January 2005, a law came into force banning parents in England and Wales from smacking children hard enough to leave a mark on the skin.

But children's charities in Britain and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child continue to put pressure on the government for an outright ban on smacking of children and give them the same legal rights as adults.


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