Rogue 'school' exploits law to hit kids

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
Eleven boxes of government papers fail to stop Tyndale from striking pupils

The head of a Christian "school" that uses corporal punishment says he can, and will, continue to smack children legally despite a new law passed to stop him.

Tyndale Academy in Forest Gate, east London, was deliberately set up a decade ago to fall outside the legal definition of a school so that it would not be affected by the 1998 ban on school staff hitting pupils.

Ministers have been trying to bring Tyndale Academy into line since 2003 in a case that has already generated 11 boxes of official government papers.

A new category of "independent educational institution" was created by the Education and Skills Act last year to cover Tyndale and make it follow the same rules as schools.

But the regulations needed to bring the new category into effect will not come into force until September 2010 at the earliest. Ferris Lindsay, Tyndale's head, says that even when they do, he will be able to operate outside them.

He began advertising for new pupils this week, and says if they are of primary age then he will smack them when necessary.

"Corporal punishment should be a small but important part of the training of ordinary children with run-of-the-mill naughtiness," he told The TES.

Mr Lindsay, a qualified teacher, said small group sizes would allow him to offer primary pupils a good education in less than the 12-and-a-half hours of weekly tuition that triggers the independent educational institution definition.

"I don't sit there supervising children doing writing because that is a waste of time," he said. "I teach them all the time."

Corporal punishment at Tyndale, where rules are based on the Bible, was only ever given with explicit parental permission and was a small part of a disciplinary policy that also included stars for good behaviour, he said.

But pupils could be smacked on the palm by a teacher's hand for direct disobedience or acts they knew were wrong, such as persistent swearing.

Ofsted told the then Department for Education and Skills about smacking at Tyndale as long ago as 2004. But Mr Lindsay said that no official had raised the matter with him since.

They have, however, made copious efforts to regulate the academy. Prior to the new legislation, the Government went through two official consultations and sent 399 letters and emails in 200607 alone, but made little progress.

Mr Lindsay said: "It is remarkable that that they go to these lengths to ensure conformity, and even then, the way they have drafted the legislation means the law as passed will still allow oddballs to operate."

He has not used corporal punishment for 14 months, but this is because he has only had secondary-age pupils, whom he no longer smacks. "That is not because it is wrong," he said. "But an older child can do more damage - not physically, but legally."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: "Local authorities have a duty to ensure that children in their area are receiving a suitable education.

"It will be for them to judge whether parents are providing that by sending their children to an organisation offering only two full school days a week."

Punishment pains

  • 1987: Corporal punishment banned in state schools
  • 1998: Ban extended to all schools
  • 1999: Tyndale set up outside legal definition of a "school"
  • 2004: Ofsted informs Government of Tyndale's smacking policy
  • 2004: Principal told to register as a school or face prosecution
  • 2005: Government admits Tyndale not officially a school
  • 2008: Education and Skills Act creates new category for Tyndale
  • 2009: Principal says he will cut hours to stay outside category.

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