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Few heads favour flogging

The proposals to bring back the cane may be gaining currency among backbench and frontbench Tory MPs, and find support with parents, according to surveys this week. But headteachers have little appetite for flogging their charges.

James Pawsey, chairman of the Conservative's backbench education committee, intends to submit an amendment to the Education Act to allow home-school contracts to include corporal punishment as a sanction. Northampton North Tory MP Tony Marlow will also try to amend the Bill to allow governors to reintroduce corporal punishment if they wish.

Mr Marlow does not believe the Government has yet decided its line on corporal punishment, despite the dressing-down Gillian Shephard received from the Prime Minister when she voiced her support. "There is a lot of support among the Conservative Party for its reintroduction," he said.

"There are some schools and some students where the reintroduction of corporal punishment would help strengthen discipline."

James Pawsey, MP for Rugby and Kenilworth, believes the cane will act as a deterrent to trouble makers and this will lead to a reduction in the number of exclusions.

The view of the MPs is not shared by any of the heads in their constituencies who spoke to The TES.

Bruce Liddington, head of Northampton School for Boys, said: "We just don't think this is the way forward. I have got a town centre boys' school with 1,000 pupils and it fills me with horror to think of managing that number of adolescent boys by physical force."

Peter Rossborough, head of Ashlawn School, said he saw no need for the cane in his school. "A logbook of one of the schools that pre-dated this one had a list of all those who had been caned, and it was always the same pupils."

Richard Potter, head of Bishop Wulstan Roman Catholic school, said: "I would find it very difficult to hit a child in order to teach them something. We promote self-discipline and have a strong pastoral system in the school. "

Author and journalist Auberon Waugh recalls having the record at Downside for 14 beatings in one term - most for smoking. He still smokes and there rests his case.

The Elton Report into discipline in 1989 said: "There is little evidence that corporal punishment was in general an effective deterrent either to the pupils punished or to other pupils." It also found some evidence to suggest that behaviour was worse in schools that made liberal use of the cane or strap.

But, according to a Mori poll in one Sunday paper, two-thirds of those asked support the return of the cane. The last time it was discussed in the House of Commons in 1986 there was overwhelming support for corporal punishment to be returned; John Major was among the MPs who supported the move in a free vote.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, last week told BBC Radio 4 he believed there was a place for corporal punishment "in extremis".

Pat Petch, chair of the National Governors Council, said: "We would condemn any violence in schools, including that used on children. Caning sets a destructive role model to children; what it is saying is that you might not go around hitting people but it is all right for adults to hit children."

Walter Ulrich, spokesman for the National Association of Governors and Managers, said properly funded pupil-referral units were a more sensible solution to the problem of indiscipline in schools.

There was some support from Pauline Latham, chair of the Grant-Maintained Schools Advisory Council: "No GM school would like to see corporal punishment imposed upon it, but some schools might like the freedom to use it as the ultimate deterrent. But that is the decision for individual schools."

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