Corporal Punishment: Everyone's Discussing It

Every so often a somebody somewhere mourns the death of corporal punishment in schools, and that’s exactly what was done last week in these articles:

It’s over 25 years ago that corporal punishment was abolished in schools, in 1986. Since then it is widely acknowledged that ‘low level disruption’, such as talking at the same time as the teacher, has become the norm. The articles above quote an ATL conference where speakers stated successive governments have not found a suitable and as effective alternative.

What we have in it’s place, of course, are detentions and expulsions, which are not as effective, and are even prevented from being used in full because of targets and legislation. Tom Bennett often makes the point that expulsion is often not used properly and schools are themselves punished for using it too much, and makes it better than I ever could. (Newsnight, and the Dark Arts of Exclusion)

Recently legislation requiring giving 24 hours notice of a detention has been lifted, and also has given teachers increased powers to search pupils. This is all welcome and I can’t fault it, aside from the fact that it is very small change and unlikely to make a massive amount of change to behaviour problems in schools.

Teachers are also allowed to use reasonable force, but this aspect of teacher legislation leaves a lot to be desired (Use of Reasonable Force).

What it has been replaced with is teacher bashing. So that bad behaviour is now said to be caused by lack of engagement and motivation, and blamed on the teacher’s planning. The responsibility of the behaviour has been taken away from the students themselves and placed on the head of the teacher – if only they weren’t so boring and incompetent then students would not misbehave.

This is reflected in some of the quotes in the newspaper articles above, that state that students are treated as ‘little buddhas’ at home and as a result expect teachers to serve them, rather than to discipline and teach them. I’m not sure about that, but blaming teachers for student’s poor behaviour would certainly cause a student to expect that. Spotting the pattern?

It’s always tempting to think that behaviour hasn’t got worse, and we’re just remembering it wrong. May I just point you to this statistic?

As always, any educator talking about corporal punishment has got to give the obligatory disclaimer: “Not that I’m advocating a return to corporal punishment or anything…” and I have to say the same. Perhaps not punishing teachers for using punishments might be a start though.

Are you being blamed for poor behaviour in your classes? Are you left totally unsupported with the worst of students? Email me.


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