Caning and other forms of physical punishment were banned in schools partially or fully funded by the government in 1986. From 1998 to 2003, the practice of caning was formally banned in private schools. It was meted out as a harsh but effective way of punishing those who had misbehaved and encouraging all pupils to follow the rules. Since it was outlawed, the general consensus has been that it shouldn’t be brought back. Scotland has just introduced a smacking ban, so it’s clear that many, including those in positions of power, aren’t in favour of children being smacked at all. If smacking’s getting outlawed, there’s no chance of something like caning being reintroduced.
But with children still being violent in classrooms and things like knife crime still prevalent, is there an argument for bringing caning back?
Realistically, there’s zero chance of caning being brought back, even in private schools. If it were, there would no doubt be a huge backlash that would just lead to it getting abolished again anyway.
Even a less harmful physical punishment such as smacking wouldn’t go down well if it were practised in public schools in today’s culture. In short, there’s no way the UK will ever have a widespread practice of physically punishing schoolchildren. There will always be those who think physical punishments should be used because they can be effective. However, it’s safe to say that those people are a minority; those against such punishments have the upper hand here. If such punishments were reintroduced, there would be no shortage of outraged parents and the public outcry would be huge. In a time when things like consent and sexual abuse are controversial issues, physically punishing schoolchildren is something no school will get away with.
The underlying argument is that children who misbehave need to be punished effectively. If physical punishments aren’t acceptable, then some other form of punishment that’s just as effective needs to become the new norm. Teaching children to misbehave isn’t just about ensuring good short-term behaviour, it’s also about setting them up for later life and encouraging them to live well, obey the law and not harm others in any way. Children today are still engaging in crime and getting arrested – so long as there are children harming others and defying the law, more needs to be done to encourage them to behave properly. Having effective school punishments can help, but if physical punishments aren’t going to be practised, what’s the next best option?