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From the Archive - 21.12.1990

Call to ban the cane in independents

Opponents of corporal punishment are pressing the government to end caning in independent schools.

Epoch, the pressure group organising Britain's first national "no smacking" week, says that at least 50 schools are still using it four years after it was banned in the state system.

Independent schools can still cane pupils as long as their fees are not paid by the state, and provided their parents do not object. The Children Act, which comes into effect next year, bans physical punishment in private children's homes, and requires independent schools with up to 50 boarders to register as homes. Epoch wants this extended to all independent schools.

Its coordinator, Peter Newell, has submitted a paper on the subject to the Department of Health. He has also asked the Department of Education and Science to stop authorities placing children with statements of special needs in independent schools which still use physical punishment.

Mr Newell said: "It is illogical that the protection of pupils from physical punishment should depend on whether their parents or the state are paying their fees."

The latest edition of the Equitable Schools Book, which lists about a quarter of Britain's independents, names 14 which advertise the fact that they have corporal punishment. One is St James Independent School for Boys in Queen's Gate, London. Its head, Nicholas Debenham, said: "I don't think these campaigners know what they are talking about. They are just wrong. Punishment and reward are part of learning about life as a citizen."

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