Last vestiges of caning swept away

A LIBERAL Democrat MP last night spoke of his "shame" at caning children as MPs voted to sweep away the last vestiges of corporal punishment in independent schools.

Former secondary school teacher, Phil Willis, the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: "Whenever I caned a child, I felt demeaned by it. Quite frankly, I felt quite ashamed later in life to feel that for many years I supported the use of corporal punishment."

Caning is banned in state schools but a handful of independent schools, some with strong religious connections, still administer corporal punishment. MPs were give a free vote by the Government to extend the ban in the independent schools during the final Commons stages of the School Standards Bill.

Eton, Harrow and the major public schools have all banned caning, and the Independent Schools Council welcomed the extension of the ban on all corporal punishment.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on education, challenged Tory backwoodsmen who defended "spanking" on the grounds that it did children no harm. "How do they know?" he said. "I have been caned. It did me harm."

Mr Willis said there was a need to use a degree of force, sometimes to protect pupils, but caning was an admission of failure in discipline in schools. The ban will also stop punishment with a slipper or a ruler. It will still allow parents to smack their children, and smacking by child minders with the approval of parents.

Corporal punishment in prisons and borstals was prohibited in 1967 - the same year that the Plowden report "Children and their Primary Schools" recommended banning corporal punishment in schools.