the belt
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Please note:
The following information in regard to the belt (tawse) was found on a great web site dedicated to 'Corporal Punishment'. This web site can be found at www.corpun.com (or press on the 'corpun' link above), Colin Farrell is the editor of this rich resource on the issue of corporal punishment. The web site is well worth a visit if you want to read up more on this very important issue.
You will all be aware that Mr Mackenzie tried to ban the belting of pupils both at Braehead and at Summerhill, Aberdeen. He failed in both schools through the opposition of some of the staff members at that time. Thanks to Colin Farrell for permission to reproduce the material below.

'The tingle o' the tawse'
The tawse is a leather strap with its business end cut into a number of tails ( usually two or three ) . The tawse may be applied to the palm of the hands or the buttocks . If the latter, it may be applied over clothing. Unlike the cane, a leather strap can be safely applied to the hand: it will hurt but not injure , and six of the very best can be safely inflicted upon a schoolboy's palms. The tawse is associated with Scotland, just as the cane is with England, and has been employed in domestic, educational and judicial contexts. Incidentally, in Scotland the tawse is more commonly known as the belt . Many Scottish saddlers used to make tawses but the best implements were undoubtedly manufactured by the firm of John Dick & Sons of Lochgelly, a small town about 12 miles north of Edinburgh. Later the firm moved to nearby Cowdenbeath. The famous Lochgelly tawse began with a saddler named Philps who started making tawses for his son and daughter who were both teachers. These proved so effective that other teachers soon wanted to own a Lochgelly and the business quickly expanded .

The firm eventually passed in to the hands of the Dick family and remained with them for three generations until they ceased trading in 1984. At one time the firm was selling 70 or 80 tawses a week and also had a thriving export trade.



"Lochgelly is a small town in Fife. It is known for the coal industry years ago and for the Lochgelly Belt (the tawse). In Lochgelly there are two community centres, a golf course, a bowling green, football pitches and Mizone's. Mizone's is a shop with bandits and a pool table."


"They may not know it, but ever since the late eighties, Scottish pupils owe a debt of thanks to the Council of Europe. It was a ruling from the Strasbourg-based human rights organisation which forced the UK Government to end the use of the belt in schools.

Now perhaps the nearest schoolchildren are likely to come to the infamous Lochgelly tawse is in Edinburgh's Museum of Scotland, where it is one of hundreds nominated by the public as rekindling memories, of childhood in the twentieth century.

Traditionalists may mourn the belt's passing, but its disappearance is a measure of the power that the Council of Europe , which celebrates its fiftieth birthday in London today, can wield."


Lochgelly, Fife
A former coal mining town in W Fife, situated on a ridge between Loch Ore and Loch Gelly.

Situated on the railway line linking Dunfermline with Dundee, Lochgelly was once a small agricultural market centre. It prospered as a mining town between the granting of mineral rights to the Lochgelly Iron and Coal Company in the 1830s and the closure of local pits in the 1960s. Lochgelly is the highest town in Fife and was designated a burgh in 1876. 'The Lochgelly' was the name once given to the locally-manufactured leather belt or tawse used to beat school children.

Lochgelly has a modern community high school built in 1986, a community centre (1976), an 18-hole golf course and an industrial estate (Cartmore) with industries that include engineering, sawmilling, the manufacture of animal feed and rubber goods, and the supply of building materials.



The Cane and the Tawse in Scottish Schools
by Colin Farrell
A READER asks about use of the cane and the tawse in British schools -- in particular, how the balance of usage between these two instruments varied in different parts of the UK until school CP was finally outlawed altogether in 1998. First, let us focus on Scotland.

As far as state schools are concerned, the tawse was pretty well universal in Scotland. ('Tawse' was the official term, but in conversation it was always called 'the belt'.) It was the only instrument permitted under the 1968 Code of Practice agreed between the Scottish teachers' unions and the Scottish Education Department.

Bizarrely, the Code also specified that it be applied only on the hands; and there is no doubt that, in modern times, this was how the tawse was generally inflicted in Scottish schools.


BEATINGS ON THE BOTTOM
Bill Fyfe Hendrie, a Scots head teacher, has written:

"Describing his school days in Montrose, 19th century poet Alexander Smart records that when he and his school fellows were to be punished they were ordered to bend over a long wooden bench, to which they were bound so that there was no escape while the master, Mr Norval, administered what he considered to be the requisite number of strokes of his tawse across their legs and bottoms. At Ayr Grammar School the boys suffered the even greater indignity of being 'horsed', that is hoisted on the shoulders of two of their classmates, so that their bottoms presented an even better target for the tawse.

"Beatings on the bottom were apparently common in Aberdeenshire, for many schools in that county boasted what were known as "cooling stanes". These were large stones just outside the school door to which pupils who had been chastised could rush at play times to sit and take at least part of the stinging sensation out of their wounds. Indeed it is claimed that one irate kirk session complained bitterly to the dominie that his scholars were using one of the large tomb stones in the adjacent grave yard for this unseemly practice.

"One boy went through the rest of his life with the nickname, "Leather Doup", because when he was wee, he persuaded his mother to sew a sheep's skin inside the seat of his trousers, in order to minimise the impact of the dominie's leatherings."

("The Tingle o' the Tawse", Scottish Memories, July 1994)

Not quite all state-school teachers followed the modern-day rules about applying the tawse only to the hand. Mr David Johnstone, headmaster of Plockton High School in Wester Ross, was "severely censured" by Highland Education Committee for his disciplinary methods in 1979. He was "accused of spanking teenage boys on the bare bottom with his belt. The incidents are said to have taken place in his study with the door locked and curtains drawn." ("School belting inquiry begins", Daily Record, Glasgow, 13 March 1979.)

Mr Johnstone had previously been a teacher in Edinburgh, where I have been told that men who were his pupils in the mid-1970's claim they too received the belt on their backsides. Apparently at the time nobody complained!

A couple of years earlier, teacher James McQuade agreed at Dumfries Sheriff Court that he had put pupils across his knee and spanked them in front of the class at Lincluden Primary School, Dumfries. An 11-year-old boy, who admitted that he was "a menace in the classroom", said Mr McQuade had punished him "by pulling his trousers and underpants down, putting him over his knee, and striking him on the buttocks". ("Teacher spanked pupils", The Scotsman, Edinburgh, 17 September 1977.)


'I FELT THE BOY EXPECTED TO BE PUNISHED'
And the headmaster of Dunoon Grammar School, Mr Alexander Thain, was cleared of indecent assault following the bare-backside spanking of a 15-year-old boy who had been playing truant.

Mr Thain told Dunoon Sheriff Court how he went to the parents' house and took the boy to his own home, the school being shut that day. There followed what the boy called 'hypnosis' and the headmaster called 'relaxation therapy'. Mr Thain continued: "The father had told me that he had caned the boy. I said: 'I've nothing here to punish you with and I'll have to use my hand and use it on your bare bottom'."

The boy described to the court how he had removed his own trousers and bent over the settee. "He pulled down my underpants and started to smack me with his hand, five or six times," he said.

Mr Thain explained: "I felt the boy expected to be punished and I felt his parents expected him to be punished. It was meant as a symbolic punishment." ("Head hypnotised me, says boy", The Scotsman, 12 June 1980; "Head acquitted of assaulting boy", The Scotsman, 13 June 1980.)


PUBLIC FLOGGING OF BOYS
These last two bare-bottom spanking cases, whilst not involving the belt, do tend to confirm both that the Code of Practice was sometimes ignored, and that trousers-down punishments were not unknown in state schools in Scotland.

There is certainly evidence of them if we go a little further back in time. One man who in 1946 was a 12-year-old pupil at St Andrew's RC School, Dumfries, wrote:

"The use of the tawse was a daily occurrence for trivial offences. Public floggings in the school hall in front of the assembled school were for 'serious offences', for example, stealing a pair of plimsolls. The boys were brutally beaten on the bare backside by the headmaster whilst two male teachers held the struggling victim across a school desk. Female teachers were excused witnessing the spectacle, so they would not see a bare backside."

(Letter from 'D.D', Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 5 February 1982.)

Generally, however, the tawse in Scotland was given on the hands, often - contrary to the usual practice with the cane in England - in front of the class. And it was applied remarkably frequently: a 1977 survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (the teachers' trade union) found that 36% of 12-to-15- year-old boys were belted at least once in 10 school days; 21% of these were strapped three or more times in the same period.


19 OUT OF 20 BOYS STRAPPED
And in 1980 a study by Edinburgh University's Centre for Educational Sociology, conducted among 40,000 school leavers, showed that only 1 in 20 boys went through secondary school without getting the tawse ("Children under shadow of the belt", Daily Record, 26 November 1980.) This suggests a considerably higher level of usage of CP overall than the average in England and Wales.

There is one significant exception to the dominance of the tawse in Scottish education, and that is the independent (private) schools. Here there was no general rule; the Code of Practice did not apply. I understand a few private schools, such as Glasgow Academy, did use the strap on hands, perhaps regarding this as a more Scottish thing to do, but most followed their English counterparts in using the cane on bottoms.

CANE ACROSS THE BACKSIDE
A fictional, but probably reasonably authentic, example of the latter can be seen in the short film "The Dollar Bottom", made by Roger Christian in 1980. Set in an Edinburgh boarding school in 1953, and based on a story by James Kennaway, it is a light-hearted tale about an enterprising boy who sets up an insurance scheme against getting the cane, and quickly makes a fortune.

A real-life private school, Dollar Academy, announced in 1983 that it was giving up using CP altogether, but there is anecdotal evidence that in the mid-1960's it was still using the cane across backsides in quite a big way and - on occasions - with much force and ceremony. This was apparently administered by senior boys in the boarding houses; teachers themselves used the tawse on the hand, said to be a daily occurrence.


BOY, 17, CANED FOR DRINKING
Fettes College, in Edinburgh, also used the cane. Fettes is often considered "Scotland's Eton", though it is a Victorian and not a mediaeval institution. The following curious item appeared in Scotland's biggest-selling popular daily paper:

"A boy has been caned at one of Scotland's top schools .... for under-age drinking. The caning took place at exclusive Fettes College, Edinburgh, the night before 17-year-old Russell Young was fined five pounds at the district court.

"Two other teenagers from the six-hundred-pounds-a-term school, Ian MacConachie, now 18, and Christopher Cape, now 17, were also fined five pounds at the same court when they admitted drinking beer.

"Both were told by headmaster Mr Anthony Chenevix-Trench, who came to Fettes from Eton, that they would not be allowed to leave the school grounds for a time.

"'They have simply been naughty', said Mr Chenevix-Trench, 'but they should not have been drinking'."

(Daily Record, 25 February 1977).

The news story did not explain why Russell got the cane, while Ian and Christopher apparently didn't but were gated instead. Nor why the Daily Record thought a caning at a "top school" -- of which there must have been, at the least, dozens daily in Scotland alone -- was unusual enough to justify being brought to the attention of its several million readers. Presumably the canings were mentioned during the public court case; normally of course that kind of information remains private.


NO ORDINARY FLOGGER
In his former capacity as headmaster of Eton in the 1960s, Mr Chenevix-Trench ("A quick beating can be the kindest thing to do" -- Liverpool Echo, 6 January 1979) would have been accustomed to caning boy's bottoms -- bare, in that case. We are not told whether the canings he administered at Fettes - such as 17-year-old Russell Young's in February 1977 - were also done trousers-down (or kilts-up?) but it seems highly likely, in view of revelations by journalist Paul Foot, who went to Shrewsbury School when Chenevix-Trench was a housemaster there in the 1950s. Foot wrote on the occasion of the great man's death:

"... Trench was no ordinary flogger. He would offer his culprit an alternative: four strokes with the cane, which hurt; or six with the strap, with trousers down, which didn't. Sensible boys always chose the strap, despite the humiliation, and Trench, quite unable to control his glee, led the way to an upstairs room, which he locked, before hauling down the miscreant's trousers, lying him face down on a couch and lashing out with a belt .....

("London Diary", New Statesman, London, 13 July 1979.)
Foot's claims about Trench have been fully vindicated much more recently.


SIX OF THE BEST WITH RIDING CROP
But to return to Scotland, and Fettes College. Another account of life there, this time in 1966, has been provided by Richard Gibbon, columnist on the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Sunday Sun. Gibbon, who was 13 at the time, was caught talking after lights out. He writes:

"I was made to wait 12 hours before my punishment and during this time I ate, tried to swot (exams the next day) and duly attended evening chapel service.

"After finishing my Divinity essay...I was summoned to the holy room of house prefects: eight individuals, average age 17, whom I viewed as Gorgons from my lowly height. They explained how badly behaved I had been, warned me I must be made to suffer, and duly frog-marched me to a room referred to as The Big Dormitory.

"Thirty feet away stood two chairs back to back, on which I was to have six of the best.

"Thud! - the first stroke of the riding crop made contact and my assailant slowly returned to the waiting group of would-be thrashers.

"A dozen steps later there was another almighty clout and my chairs lurched violently forward, and so my dose was repeated another four times.

"Several screams later I emerged from my torture stools, pulled my clothes together, wiped away my tears and shook hands with the head of house.

"For three days my rear ached, the thick weals stayed for two weeks, and the scars finally went about six weeks later. For a few days I was a mini-hero. How much did it hurt? When did you start crying? etc. But the whole event was quickly erased from school life.

"By everyone but me, that is. I have never forgotten the beating and I doubt I ever will. It served as an excellent reminder that if I was caught doing something wrong then I had to expect punishment."

("Punishment? You can't whack it", Sunday Sun, 20 August 1978.)

A rather more famous product of Fettes College is the present British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It seems he was something of a rebel at school, and around 1970 he too received "six of the best" there, when he was a six-foot 17-year-old. The caning was delivered by his exasperated housemaster, who described the future PM as the most difficult boy he ever had to deal with
"Rebel pupil Blair was given six of the best", Daily Telegraph, London, 28 March 2001).


SIX BLACK MARKS = ONE WHACKING
For our final look at caning in Scotland's private schools, we turn once more to Dumfries.

In 1979 Mr Peter Spencer, former headmaster of what was described as "one of Scotland's oldest-established prep schools", was charged on 12 counts of assault involving 7 boys over five years:

"Five schoolboys told a court yesterday how their headmaster beat them over the buttocks with a shoe, riding crop or cane. And one of them claimed their boarding school was nicknamed Colditz.

"A jury at Dumfries heard the boys - aged between 12 and 14 - tell about life in the 75-pupil school. They described the disciplinary system, under which bad conduct marks could be awarded by teachers at St Ninian's in Moffat, Dumfriesshire.

"Any boy accumulating six had to go to the head's study where punishment was administered by him. They alleged that he hit them over their bottom, in some cases causing red marks, weals and bruising.....

"Roderick Baillie, 12, of Edinburgh, told how he was punished on three occasions, once in 1974 when he was seven, and twice last year. On the first occasion he received four strokes with a shoe on the backside, from the headmaster."

("Colditz head beat us, say pupils", Daily Record, 26 September 1979.)

On the second day of the trial, the school doctor, Dr. Hamish Macleod, took the witness stand. He had been called in January 1979 to examine two boys, Mark Bishop, 13, and Michael Lambert, 11, who "were each given six strokes of the cane on their buttocks".

BRUISED BUTTOCKS
The doctor stated that four days after the caning "the weals were still about a quarter to half an inch in diameter and their buttocks were bruised", and that "days later, the boys were still suffering pain". He added that "the force with which they were struck must have been extremely excessive".

The doctor agreed however that "it was an excellent school academically and also in character training". Michael Lambert himself told the court that "he and Mark Bishop were punished for not owning up to breaking a thermometer" ("Doctor condemns canings", Daily Telegraph, London, 27 September 1979; "Doctor tells of boy's school cane wounds", Daily Record, 27 September 1979).

Headmaster Spencer, giving evidence on the third day of his trial, said he considered a horse crop less severe than the cane. He told the court he used the slipper for less severe punishment, then the horse crop, and then a cane for more serious cases. "I regard the riding crop as being not so thick and much lighter than a cane."

"Spencer, .... a National Service Officer instructor in the RAF, said ... when he took over at St Ninian's in 1973 he never made any secret of the fact that he believed in and administered corporal punishment.

".....He went on to say that in his opinion he had beaten the two boys involved reasonably hard, but certainly not as hard as he could have done. He did not think his use of the cane had been excessive".

("Riding crop less severe than the cane, says former head", Glasgow Herald, 28 September 1979.)

COURT UPHOLDS DISCIPLINE
On the fourth and final day of the case, the Sheriff told the jury that "the crime of assault requires as an essential ingredient some measure of criminal intent". There was no evidence of this, and he instructed them to return a verdict of not guilty.

As he walked "elated" from the court, Mr Spencer said he had not changed his views on CP. "Had I been found guilty I feel that many other teachers in other schools would have felt inhibited. I hope that this will be an encouragement to other teachers trying to uphold discipline and good behaviour" "Caning head cleared of assault", Glasgow Herald, 29 September 1979.)


A final note on the tawse: In 1982 its monopoly manufacturer in Scotland, Lochgelly saddler John Dick, "whose family firm had been making the tawse in their Fife workshop since Victorian children were learning their three R's and being belted", went out of production.

"It is almost fading away in any case because of the difficulty in obtaining the special leather. It was now being manufactured principally for export: 'There are outstanding orders for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America. There's medium, heavy and extra-heavy ... The two-tail heavy has been the most popular and retails at 5.90.'"

("Rise and fall of the belt", Sunday Standard, Glasgow, 28 February 1982.)



Daily Telegraph, London, 28 March 2001
Rebel pupil Blair was given six of the best
by Tara Womersley
WITH hair past his shoulders, a cavalier attitude to rules on smoking and drinking, and constantly at odds with authority, this is how Tony Blair is best remembered during his school days.

But while Bob Roberts, the man who caned the boy who grew up to be Prime Minister, described him as "the most difficult boy I ever had to deal with", many also recall the charm and guile that helped keep him out of even deeper strife.

The portrait of the rebellious young Blair emerges in a new biography by John Rentoul to be published next month. As a boarder at Fettes College, Edinburgh, he argued repeatedly with staff about school procedures.

But, according to the author, he mostly "stopped short at the stage where his defiance would inflict serious damage either to his person or his academic career". One episode recalls how the father of a girlfriend intervened to save Mr Blair from expulsion shortly before he finished school.

Amanda Mackenzie-Stuart, the daughter of Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, a judge and school governor, was one of the first girls at Fettes. Among 440 boys she attracted much attention, but was drawn to Mr Blair, whom she described as "so bright, so engaging and very funny".

The book claims Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, who died last year, persuaded Ian McIntosh, then headmaster, to abandon plans to expel Mr Blair after he had completed his A-levels but before the end of term. They reached a compromise allowing Mr Blair to live at the Mackenzie-Stuarts' home for the remaining weeks of the school year.

"Thus did Blair end his school days in privileged exile," writes Rentoul. Lady Mackenzie-Stuart said yesterday: "I do not believe that he was the easiest of pupils. But further than that, I cannot go."

Although Lady Mackenzie-Stuart said she was not aware that her husband had intervened, she recalled Mr Blair as "a bright and intelligent schoolboy who just wanted to get on with it - but I knew him in our home, not as a teacher". Not everyone fell for Mr Blair's charm. Mr Roberts, his housemaster, found him "infuriating".

Rentoul writes: "Roberts beat Blair, the only master to do so, giving him 'six of the best' at the age of 17 for persistently flouting rules." On another occasion, a prefect at Fettes beat Mr Blair for smoking. Years later, Mr Blair noticed with some smugness that at a lawyers' dinner in Edinburgh the only person in the room with a cigarette was the same prefect.

Mr Blair, who had previously attended the Chorister School, Durham, as a day boy, made a more positive impression on Eric Anderson, now provost at Eton College and Mr Roberts's predecessor as housemaster. He said: "I got used to that knock at my study door, followed by the grinning Blair face and a 15-minute argument about ways of doing things which the school ought to, he thought, change at once.

"Tony was full of life, maddening at times, full of himself and very argumentative. He was an expert at testing the rules to the limit, and I wouldn't swear that he stuck rigidly to the school rules on not drinking, smoking or breaking bounds. But he was a live wire and fun to have around."

Nick Ryden, 48, who is the godfather to Mr Blair's son Leo, said yesterday that although Mr Blair may be depicted as a rebel he was fighting against a much more oppressive regime than exists in schools today. He said: "I suppose you could describe us as partners in crime but that would not be very politically correct. Tony was just one of the lads.

"Being a rebel would mean going down town without permission or questioning why you had to play sport on a Wednesday afternoon. I did go out to clubs a couple of times with Tony, where we would have to get through fences under the cover of darkness."

Because Mr Blair wore his hair long, he greased it down with butter to keep it inside the back of the collar. After leaving school Mr Blair spent a year in London, where he fell in with "weekend hippies", before going on to St John's College, Oxford.

During this year, armed with a blue guitar he called Clarence, he became the manager of a band dominated by public school boys. At Oxford, he helped to form another group called Ugly Rumours. Alan Collenette recalls in the book being greeted by a grinning Mr Blair, who arrived on his doorstep after a friend of a friend had told him he was a rock promoter.

Mr Collenette, now the managing director of a commercial real estate company in San Francisco, said he and Mr Blair, who stayed at his parents' house, set up business over the kitchen table. Their plan was to promote the next Led Zeppelin. But Mr Blair did stand apart from other "weekend hippies" - he kept a Bible at his bedside and refused to be drawn into the drugs culture.

The biography also describes an encounter with another contemporary "even more rebellious than he". In 1970, he met Anji Hunter - who was appointed after Mr Blair's election victory as his "special assistant". Rentoul quotes Mr Blair as saying: "I met Anji when I was about 17, at a party where we both stayed overnight. It was my first defeat."

Tony Blair: Prime Minister by John Rentoul.
Published by Little, Brown on April 5, 20.


The Times, London, 28 September 1972
Campaign opens to abolish the cane in schools
By Our Education Correspondent

The legal right of teachers to cane children is to be challenged in a new campaign to abolish beating in British schools.

Parents opposed to beating are to be asked by the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment, the two organizations mounting the campaign, to notify schools that they do not wish their children to be beaten.

A form to be sent to the local education authority states: "I wish to inform you that I do not delegate any power I may have to physically punish my child to the school authorities or to any individual teacher.

"I consider physical punishment to cause psychological damage and not to assist the education of children."

The campaign is timed to coincide with the publication of a Penguin Special polemic against corporal punishment. The organizers are writing to all MPs and chairmen of education committees arguing their case.

Launching the book and the campaign, Mr Peter Newell, education officer of the council, said that the use of physical punishment was outlawed in most of Europe, east and west, and survived principally in Britain and the Irish Republic. He wanted national legislation to forbid beating instead of the present situation in which local authorities had discretion.



The Times, 28 September 1972
The high cost of cutting out the cane
by Stephen Jessel Education Correspondent

The teacher unions agree on so little that when they speak with a single voice it is worth sitting up and taking notice. One of the few causes that unites them, higher pay apart, is the proposition that the use of corporal punishment in schools is a matter for teachers and not for local education authorities or central government. It is estimated, without much evidence, that between 80 and 90 per cent of teachers oppose the abolitionist case, a proportion reflected in the public as a whole.

This is the point of departure of A last resort?, a tract against corporal punishment in schools, acknowledged in a foreword to be "unrepentantly an abolitionist book". It is the less useful for being so. Abolitionists will find in it instant confirmation of their beliefs, while retentionists and agnostics can complain that the case for retention is made perfunctorily and at second hand, that much of the evidence cited is of limited value and that the picture painted of the ideal abolitionist school begs certain questions.

One of the principal difficulties in is deciding where to draw the line. Many people not wholly convinced by the abolitionist case view with distaste the caning of infants, girls and the mentally and physically handicapped. Yet is it reasonable to absolve infants, but not juniors, juniors in junior schools but not in middle schools, children in middle schools deemed primary but not those deemed secondary, children in middle schools deemed secondary but not in secondary schools?

The abolitionist campaigners of the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment, on whose files the book is based, argue that caning is ineffective, leads only to a temporary suppression of bad behaviour, harms children living under stress, contributes to an atmosphere of violence and anxiety, corrupts good relationships, is rarely "a last resort" as is often claimed, acts as an incentive to "unsuitable personalities" to stay in teaching, and has been found to be unnecessary in most of the rest of the civilized world.

Little evidence is presented to support this general thesis. Indeed there is very little evidence around, either way. Reference is made to a 1952 survey, of limited value 20 years later. In this book the case that beating does not deter rests very largely on the punishment book of what is very obviously a bad school. Several case histories are cited; they prove that some teachers are sometimes thoughtless, wrong-headed or even downright vicious, but they do not prove very much beyond that. Abuse only necessitates abolition when it reaches a certain level, and the book fails to prove that this level has been reached.

There is much of value in this collection, notably an account by various heads of what happened in their schools after abolition, a study of the legal position, a survey of local authorities (with the exceptions of inner London, Edinburgh and Liverpool still wedded to beating at all levels). It draws overdue attention to the prevalence (particularly in boys' secondary schools) of unofficial and illegal punishment -- the clout or kick which is never recorded in the punishment book but is tacitly tolerated.

It cannot be said that the campaign associated with this book is being launched at a very favourable time. The National Association of Schoolmasters, whose gleeful attachment to beating (expressed at their conference in the booing and jeering of abolitionists) can sicken even a moderate retentionist, has had some success in portraying secondary schools as concrete jungles to be policed with the cane. The courts and public attitudes seem to be hardening.

The most disappointing feature of the collection is its decision not to confront the central question: why is it that the morale and self-confidence of tens of thousands of humane decent teachers is so low that they feel isolated and defenceless without the final sanction of the cane. Few teachers actually enjoy hitting children, although some undoubtedly do. It seems that a frontier mentality pervades our schools: in the showdown the teacher-sheriff has to have a better physical weapon than the outlaw.

It would interesting to ask the profession what price it would charge for a commitment to abolish all corporal punishment over a period of, say, five years. Many teachers, guaranteed proper psychological services for disruptive pupils, adequate ancillary help, decent welfare services, and, perhaps most important, the right to exclude persistently troublesome children, would not be sorry to give up the right to beat.

The trouble is that the taxpayer and ratepayer would then be confronted with a bill for many millions of pounds; the going rate for canes is about 12p.

A last resort? Corporal punishment in schools.
Ed. Peter Newell. Penguin Education Special 60p.


Please note:
The information above in regard to the belt (tawse) was found on a great web site dedicated to 'Corporal Punishment'. This web site can be found at www.corpun.com (or press on the 'corpun' link above), Colin Farrell is the editor of this rich resource on the issue of corporal punishment. The web site is well worth a visit if you want to read up more on this very important issue.

Thanks to Colin Farrell for permission to reproduce the material above.


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