'Nearly half of parents' back corporal punishment

Bullying (staged)
Image caption,
Teachers have the power to use "reasonable force" to restrain pupils

Nearly half of parents of secondary school children say corporal punishment such as the cane or slipper should be reintroduced, a survey suggests.

In total, 49% of more than 2,000 parents surveyed for the Times Educational Supplement were in favour, compared with 45% who were opposed.

Nearly all surveyed thought teachers should be able to be tougher on pupils.

But one teachers' union said evidence suggested behaviour has improved since corporal punishment was banned.

The research, carried out by YouGov, showed slightly less support for corporal punishment than a TES survey in 2000 - which found 51% of parents in favour.

And when parents were asked specifically about "smacking/caning children", support dropped to 40%, with 53% disagreeing.

'Erroneous impression'

Support remained high for most traditional punishments, including sending children out of class (89%), after-school detentions (88%), lunch time detentions (87%), expelling or suspending children (84%), and making them write lines (77%).

But shouting at children was less popular, backed by only 55% of parents, and embarrassing children was frowned on, with just 21% of parents supporting it.

Among 530 secondary school pupils also surveyed, 19% backed a return to punishments such as the cane or slipper, though 71% were opposed.

However, 62% of pupils thought teachers should be allowed to be tougher in terms of classroom discipline, compared with 91% of parents.

Parents also said they were concerned that teachers had become more fearful of their pupils (91%), the parents of their pupils (86%), and of facing legal action over disciplining children (90%).

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "The right every child deserves to be taught properly is currently undermined by the twisting of rights by a minority who need to be taught an unambiguous lesson in who is boss."

He said the government was signalling to teachers "they are freer to use their own judgement" and boosting teacher training on behaviour management.

But the National Union of Teachers said parents may have got the "erroneous impression" from government statements that the classroom was a place of "rowdy and disrespectful behaviour".

It said teachers needed consistent support from management, along with appropriate sanctions and rewards, "not the right to hit children".

The NASUWT teachers' union said there was a "mythology" around corporal punishment.

In the 1950s and 1960s, vandalism and assaults against teachers were "common features of life" in many schools, and evidence suggested behaviour had improved since the practice was banned, it said.

General secretary Chris Keates also said behaviour support services had been hit by funding cuts.

Celebrity teachers

Both parents and children were asked which public figures would make the perfect teacher.

For male teachers, among parents, actor Steven Fry came out highest (40%), followed by wildlife presenter David Attenborough (35%).

Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore (36%), Yoda from Star Wars (26%) and TV chef Jamie Oliver (26%) topped the students' choices.

For female teachers, former Countdown host Carol Vorderman (48%) was parents' favourite, followed by actress Helen Mirren (36%).

And among pupils, Harry Potter author JK Rowling (40%) was most popular, followed by Miss Honey from Roald Dahl's Matilda (26%).

The research was carried out online, between 19 and 30 August, among 2,014 UK parents with children in secondary school education, and 530 children currently studying at secondary schools.

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