The surprise decision last week by the council of the Inner London Teachers' Association that it believes that corporal punishment should be abolished in secondary schools has been welcomed by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) but given a very cool reception by the heads and some of the other teachers' unions.
The decision is not expected to encourage the authority to make rapid changes in the rules governing corporal punishment in secondary schools, but Mr Harvey Hinds, chairman of the schools ILEA sub- committee, said this week that he was "immensely heartened" by it.
The decision was taken apparently after little debate and no controversy. The council overwhelmingly approved a motion by their Wandsworth Association that indirectly led to the break-up of the main meeting called by the NUT at Central Hall, Westminster, last week.
The decision is likely to produce a direct clash with the NUT executives who have, in the past, in line with successive governments and most of the teachers' unions, said it was a matter for teachers themselves to decide.
Some members of the ILTA now believe that corporal punishmencould be abolished in London's secondary schools within three to five years. The ILEA is not making any moves in what it clearly knows is a very prickly situation and considers the discussion to be in the teachers' court. It would like to see the end of corporal punishment in schools but, having abolished it in primary schools as of January this year, is letting the matter rest for a while.
The ILEA was particularly pleased by the decision, Mr Hinds said, because it showed for the first time that secondary school teachers had the confidence to face their responsibilities without resorting to the use of the cane.
"I am delighted by the decision, but given that educational establishments are living organisms that don't adapt very easily to change, I would say there is a very good case for the primary abolition to exist for three to four years so that at least half of our secondary school children will have known no corporal punishment at primary level."