Corporal Punishment Returning To British Schools


In response to the recent riots in England, Michael Gove, the education secretary, is bringing corporal punishment back to British schools. The use of force and other harsh penalties is now allowed by the British government.

Yes, you read that correctly — according to Gove, the use of physical force will teach those rioters a lesson. I wonder if he has even thought of asking any of the offenders why they were rioting and considered how that might relate to the classroom? Are we still living in Charles Dickens’ London?

British Education Secretary Will “Restore Adult Authority” In Schools By Bringing Back The Cane

According the The Guardian, in a speech delivered at Durand academy, in Stockwell, south London, Gove said the regulations on the use of force inhibited teachers’ judgment. He added that there had been a slow erosion of adult authority, subverted by a culture in which young people felt able to ignore civilized boundaries. “The only way to reverse this dissolution of legitimate authority is step-by-step to move the ratchet back in favour of teachers,” he stated.

(For the record, corporal punishment in British state schools, and also in private schools receiving any element of public funding, was banned by parliament in 1987. In the remaining private schools it was banned in 1999 in England and Wales, 2000 in Scotland, and 2003 in Northern Ireland.)

Wanted: More Male Teachers To Provide Authority Figures

Specifically, Education Secretary Gove is scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to “restore adult authority” in the wake of the riots in England.  Gove went on to say that he wanted greater numbers of men teaching, particularly in primary schools, so as to provide children with male authority figures who could display “both strength and sensitivity”.

From The Guardian:

He said: “So let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, ‘sorry, we can’t physically touch the students’, then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed.”

Gove said men considering teaching were deterred by a fear of rules that made contact between adults and children “a legal minefield”.

Let’s Recruit Ex-Soldiers For The Classroom

And if all that were not depressing enough, Gove also announced that the government is planning to start a program this autumn encouraging former members of the armed forces to take up teaching, specifically to ensure more male role models.

My first question is “How come the education secretary seems to know so little about education?” Corporal punishment was outlawed in British schools over 20 years ago for a number of very good reasons. Instilling blind fear in children to make them behave does not promote learning. Corporal punishment, more often than not, is more harmful than beneficial. It compromises the educational environment by injuring the students, dissolving the trust between teachers and students, and distracting students from learning.

Might does not make right.

Corporal Punishment Is Wrong

We teachers know that classroom management and effective discipline are vital to ensure that learning occurs in the classroom. But the use of former members of the military to enforce this? This amounts to bullying by the teacher, hardly a value that we should be promoting.

Classroom discipline is far more complicated than forcing students to obey, but Michael Gove doesn’t seem to get that. The goal of teachers should be to instil self-discipline, rather than imposing the rule of law from outside.

In addition, while I agree that more men teaching young children would be great, the inner strength necessary to educate those kids is not a male or female prerogative. I’m sure we’ve all experienced fearsome teachers of both genders!

Last year in Britain, more than 430,000 children were absent for 15% of school time, and more than a million pupils missed 10% of the academic year.

And the remedy is to bring back corporal punishment?

Please Take Action

If you agree that this decision is misguided, please click here to sign our petition to British Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, asking him to reconsider his decisions about corporal punishment and bringing former members of the armed forces into the classroom.

This is a huge step backwards for British education.

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Photo Credit: Steve Punter via Creative Commons

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Claire Jordan
Claire Jordan28 days ago

I've been reminded of this article, and looking at it again I think the author misunderstood what was going on. I doubt if Gove was talking about corporal punishment at all - just saying that teachers should be allowed to restrain aggressive students or eject them from the classroom.

As for getting the army involved, that was tried at a very run-down, failing school and it worked very well. The British Army is very different from whatever you're thinking of: it didn't teach the students to be obedient but to be independent and to develop their decision-making and leadership skills. The result was that it made the students feel that their school was cool, then that made them feel that the school reflected well on themselves, then they developed a sense of cohesion and pulled together to make the school work, because they had come to feel that its successes were theirs.

If you want a school to work you have to get buy-in, to make the kids see the school as part of their identity, and going on orienteering hikes with the army turned out to be a good way to do that.

Laure S.
Laure S.6 months ago

Stupid, brutal and sexist; Gove sounds like a real keeper. One of the reasons I never had kids is because I knew I'd kill anyone who touched my kid.

Linda Wallace
Linda Wallaceabout a year ago

I do not believe in corporal punishment but I do believe that respect must be given to teachers and there is so little of that with so many helicopter parents. Somehow children must face reasonable consequences for their actions without parents rushing to their defense.It is a necessary part of growing up.

Jon Sarvis
Jon Sarvis1 years ago

At age 6 to 12 in a UK Prep School I was regularly beaten by the headmaster. It had a big effect on me for many years - insecurity in my ability and a hatred of the headmaster. It retarded me academically such that I took 3 years to gain 3 'A' Levels.

But then at university I got back on track and gained an Hons in Nuclear Physics. But the hatred was still there. This resulted in me writing an appalling letter to the Headmaster when he was dying in hospital. I told him exactly how he had wrecked my self confidence and that I hoped he would reflect on that as he lay there in agony.

That's a dreadful thing to say to a dying man, but such was the hatred that he had produced in me. In our 60s, after a few beers, many of my school fried tell similar stories.

jessica w.
jessica w.3 years ago

this is ridiculous! singing asap!!!!!!!!!

Michele S.
Michele Santos4 years ago

Corporal Punishment is Abuse and should be banned in all schools and homes.

Mizo M.
Mizo M.4 years ago

i miss the day when i was in school as i used to be humiliated and beaten by my female teachers,i used to be beaten and humiliated 4 free everyday now i have 2 pay a dominatrix 2 have it but it will never taste as it is used 2
i remember that day when my geography teacher slapped me on my face more than once and order me to put my hands behind my back and i did it and take and love it and now i miss it

Joy Jin
Joy Jin4 years ago

corporal punishment is unacceptable.

Fred Jones
Fred Jones4 years ago

Perhaps it would be a good idea to read what this is about before starting a petition. Anyway, a return to corporal punishment would be in contravention of European law.

Thomas W.
Thomas W.4 years ago

physical force is violence, it is always wrong.