Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 30 Oct 2008

If so many teachers want caning brought back as a school punishment, surely there must be good reasons for it?

Hillary's Advice

There can never be a good reason for adults to inflict violence on children, and especially not this kind of formalised, pre-meditated punishment. After all, many of the pupils who would be in line for a caning are exactly the same children who suffer abuse at home. Can more of the same ever help?

As a mother who occasionally sank to smacking her own children, I pray that children can forgive, or at least comprehend, a sudden explosion of violence in the face of danger (running into the road) or provocation (doing for the tenth time what they have been repeatedly told not to). But any sort of school beating seems to me quite different. This is ritualised, and almost certainly unproductive, bullying by powerful adults over vulnerable and powerless children. All it can ultimately foster is hatred and resentment.

Yet one in five teachers hankers for its return. Why? Because teachers struggle daily with often outrageous behaviour and long for something that might check the hardest nuts in their classes who know no boundaries.

But the best schools and teachers know that the basis of good behaviour must always be mutual respect, constant encouragement, firm rules and clear sanctions. For the toughest cases, exclusion from the classroom and remedial behaviour modification programmes need to be available.

Of course, teachers would not have these problems if parents did their job at home. That is where the seeds of good behaviour are sown. The cane can only ever be a cruel and outdated irrelevance.