The scrapping of the cane has led to a deterioration in children’s behaviour at school, according to teachers.
Sanctions available to schools since corporal punishment was abolished 25 years ago are ‘totally inadequate’ at reasserting authority in the classroom and lack the same deterrent effect, they said yesterday.
While rejecting a return to the cane, members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers condemned existing sanctions such as detention and suspension.
‘Novel’ punishments are needed to allow teachers to reassert their authority in the classroom, they said.
Delegates at the association’s annual conference voted unanimously for research into ‘effective’ disciplinary methods.
‘When corporal punishment was abolished nothing was put in its place that had equivalent deterrent powers,’ said Julian Perfect, a teacher from London.
Laws forbidding state schools from using the cane or slipper to discipline pupils were introduced in 1987, and a decade later in independent schools.
But Mr Perfect pointed out that subsequent governments had failed to give teachers sufficient sanctions.
He added that while teachers have statutory authority to discipline pupils whose behaviour is unacceptable, governments have failed to suggest methods for making authority ‘meaningful’.
Suspensions and expulsions were now handed out all too rarely amid pressure on schools to reduce the number of pupils who are excluded from school, the conference also heard.
Research by the teachers’ association suggested pupil behaviour had declined further in recent years.
Responding to one of its surveys, a teacher said: ‘The children know that our hands are tied and play up frequently.
‘In the past two years, we have only successfully permanently excluded one pupil. It is the good students whose education is being wrecked that I feel for.’
Another said: ‘Persistent low-level rudeness and disruption seems to have become a fact of life in education today and no longer raises eyebrows or seems to merit special attention.’
A third reported: ‘I had a female student threaten to kick the smile off my face, in front of a whole class.’
The association’s general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ‘Sanctions do have to be something students don’t want to have to endure.
‘We’re not saying at all that children should fear teachers but they should respect them.
‘If they go beyond the bounds of respecting a teacher there should be sanctions.
‘And those sanctions should be something children would rather not face.’
Proposing a motion aimed at tackling poor behaviour in the classroom, Mr Perfect said: ‘This does not seek the reinstatement of corporal punishment but rather the identification of additional forms of sanction.’
Jean Roberts, who teaches at Old Oak Primary, London told the conference: ‘We need more research into behaviour management particularly sanctions that work, are equitable and can be used widely in schools supported by governments and parents.
‘We have to ensure more of our classes are not disrupted but are places of real learning for all.’