UK

Tony Abbott's Education Guru Keven Donnelly Backs Bringing Back The Cane

16/07/2014 10:10 BST | Updated 16/07/2014 10:59 BST

Next the dunce hat and the back board? Australian prime minister Tony Abbott's newly appointed 'Education Tsar' has suggested caning children in schools could be "very effective... if it's done properly".

Teachers unions have slammed the endorsement of corporal punishment by Kevin Donnelly, who said he had "no problem" with children being struck to keep them in line, as long as it was done safely.

Australian Education Union branch secretary Glenn Fowler told the Sydney Morning Herald: "All fair-minded people would see these comments as totally ridiculous and out of step with Australian community opinion and out of step with the law."

kevin donnelly

Kevin Donnelly is doing a major Australian curriculum review

Teachers in his union had "no interest in beating students," Fowler said. "It was utterly disturbing to hear Donnelly recount stories of his past of teachers luring students behind the shed to administer a punishment," he said.

Canberra Grammar principal Justin Garrick said the comments were "so far gone it’s unbelievable".

"I do think it is a concern that someone with those kinds of views is apparently playing an influential role in the current educational climate," he added.

Donnelly is co-chairing an Australian review of the curriculum, due to report at the end of July.

While not explicitly backing corporal punishment in school, Abbott himself is known to be in favour of allowing parents to smack their children. In December 2013, he said he had chastised his daughters with "pretty gentle smacks".

"We often see political correctness taken to extremes and maybe this is another example," he told Channel Seven.

"I think that we've got to treat our kids well, but I don't think we ought to say that there's no place ever for a smack.

"I think all parents know that occasionally the best thing that we can give a kid is a smack, but it can never be something that hurts them."

Most states in Australia, including New South Wales and Victoria have banned corporal punishment. There is no prohibition on its use in private schools in Queensland, South or Western Australia, and it is not banned at all in the Northern Territory.

In the UK, beating children was banned in state schools in 1987, and in private schools in 1999 in England and Wales, though not until 2003 in Northern Ireland. Teachers generally used a flexible wooden cane to beat children on the hands or buttocks, though some schools, especially in Scotland, used a leather strap. Boarding school pupils were also frequently "slippered", using a shoe.

A 2008 poll of UK teachers by the Times Educational Supplement found that one in five teachers would back the use of caning in extreme cases.

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