Should schoolchildren be caned?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 07, 2011, 4:04 PM GMT+0

Over half of British adults are in favour of allowing schools to use corporal punishment, like the cane, our poll has found, with older people over 60 much more in favour than those aged 18 to 24. Conservatives are more likely than Liberal Democrat supporters to agree, while women are much more split on the issue than men, who are significantly in favour of allowing measures such as caning to be taken in schools.

  • 53% of the public are behind schools introducing more corporal punishment (such as smacking and caning)
  • Just over a third (36%) disagree with this
  • Support increases with age, with 33% for 18-24 year olds supporting the idea, 40% of those aged 25-39, 59% of 40 to 59-year-olds, and rising to 64% for those aged 60 and above
  • Women are completely split over the issue, with 43% apiece opposing and supporting the idea
  • While men are much more sold, at 64% saying they would support allowing schools to use measures such as the cane

Does caning work?

The results come in light of recent discussions within the Government and media surrounding ways to deal with discipline problems in Britain’s schools – of which bringing back the use of corporal punishment is one suggestion.

On a Radio 5 Live programme on the issue, Kevin Courtney, from the National Union of Teachers, spoke out against such a move, and believes that there is ‘a false impression that behaviour has declined dramatically’ in the 25 years since corporal punishment in state schools was banned (it was legal in independent schools until 1998). Courtney suggests that other measures are much more effective in combatting rule breakers, and believes that ‘hitting children does not encourage good behaviour’.

However, solicitor and commentator Nick Freeman is especially in favour of the use of corporal punishment within schools. In the same radio interview, he argued that the behaviour of children has changed and they no longer have respect for their teachers. ‘Pupils never used to dream of speaking to their teachers like they do now,’ he says. ‘[Corporal punishment would] send a very strong message, not only to [misbehaving] pupils, but others who may look up to these pupils as some kind of leader’.

Courtney, on the other hand, added that children need ‘clear rules and boundaries’ rather than facing punishments like caning. ‘Caning didn’t work,’ he said.

See the survey details and full results here