The Curious Death of Corporal Punishment in British Schools, 1996


Corporal punishment in British schools wasn’t regarded as ‘assault’ until the late 1970s when political and social momentum built up against it. Two Scottish parents supported their children’s refusal to be beaten with a tawse. The case finally reached the European Court of Human Rights in 1982. They ruled for the parents and this judgement accelerated moves towards abolition, which happened in 1986 in England and Wales. Interestingly, that legislation permitted independent schools to use corporal punishment, which they continued to do until 1996. Some Christian schools felt they should use corporal punishment as it was endorsed by God. The subsequent court case ruled against them and corporal punishment was abolished in 1998.


“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:13

In Britain, teachers are in loco parentis. British parents had the right to physically chastise their children and therefore so did teachers. The corporal punishment envisaged wasn’t vicious,

…in this case we are concerned with carefully controlled, mild and loving discipline administered in the context of a clear moral code.”**

The judgement said that, The legislation is intended to protect children against the distress, pain and other harmful effects this infliction of physical violence may cause. That corporal punishment may have these harmful effects is self-evident.”***

Lord Walker added,

Countless thousands have suffered cruel deaths because at different periods during the last two thousand years parts of the Christian Church thought that the Bible not merely permitted but enjoined them to torture and kill apostates, heretics and witches.”****

The judgement was unanimous and they put to one side the religious views of the parents because in a democratic state the child’s interests came first. The possibility that a child could be harmed by corporal punishment meant that legislation was entirely proper and religious beliefs were superseded. Baroness Hale commented, “There can be no doubt that the ban on corporal punishment in schools pursues the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of children.”v She goes on to meet the Christian schools objections, “Even if it could be shown that a particular act of corporal punishment was in the interests of the individual child, it is clear that a universal or blanket ban may be justified to protect a vulnerable class…”vi


The death throes of corporal punishment ended in 1998. Christian schools felt sincere religious beliefs should be recognised by exemption from national legislation. This was rejected by the highest British court.

Bending over backwards to meet parental rights the Secretary of State, “…contended that section 548 did not interfere materially with the claimant parents’ manifestation of their beliefs. He submitted that section 548 left open to the parents several adequate, alternative courses of action: the parents could attend school on request and themselves administer the corporal punishment to the child; or the parents could administer the desired corporal punishment when the child comes home after school; or, if the need for immediate punishment is part of the claimants’ beliefs, they could educate their children at home.”vii This was rejected outright as being entirely impracticable by Lord Nicholls.

The death throes took sixteen years after the original 1982 decision of the European Court of Human Rights. And thus ended institutional brutality in British schools.


* House of Lords – Regina v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment and others (Respondents) ex parte Williamson (Appellant) and others ( para 74 Baroness Hale

** ibid para 77

*** ibid Lord Nicholls para 49

**** ibid Lord Walker para 56. See para 57 for a development of the principal point being made.

***** ibid para 80

vi loc.cit.

vii ibid para 40. This was rejected in para 41 by Lord Nicholls


For the anti-corporal punishment campaign see STOPP press! | Newsam News (

For the European Court of Human Rights judgement see BBC ON THIS DAY | 25 | 1982: Parents can stop school beatings

For the judgement on corporal punishment in Christian school see House of Lords – Regina v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment and others (Respondents) ex parte Williamson (Appellant) and others (

For the tawse see Tawse – Wikipedia

For in loco parentis see What ‘In Loco Parentis’ Means to You (

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Social Workers change a light bulb

They empower it to change itself!

The light bulb is not burnt out, it’s just differently lit.

They set up a team to write a paper on coping with darkness.

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Book Review: Peter Pist’anek ~ Rivers of Babylon (Translator Peter Petro) (1991)(2007)

I never imagined I’d warmly recommend a Slovak novel but here we are. The storyline relates to the break-up of communist east European countries in the late 1980s and the emergence of gangster-capitalism. As British people know full well the fall of communism led to oligarchs and to their shift into, principally, London and the Home Counties. Behind these gangster-capitalists has come inflated house prices in prestige areas; football teams as trophy possessions; and murderous ‘sorting-out’ of enemies from the Old Country (Russia, and eastern Europe).

The principal character, Racz, is an ignorant farmer from a small village. He’s ignorant but he has primeval cunning. His eye for the main chance is unerring and with a mix of brutal strength and bribery he finally achieves an unofficial ownership of a state owned hotel. He meets, intimidates and ultimately controls, all the petty criminals feeding off foreign tourists. The sale of the hotel in the great privatisation plus adroit use of the western banking system means he owns swathes of Bratislava.

This is the first of a trilogy. The review which led me to it in the first place says this is his masterpiece. I wouldn’t know. But I do know that if you want to spread your wings this is a very good place to start. About £2 from Kindle.

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Bridge is a sport

Private Eye 18th July 2020
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A time traveller meets an FBI agent

Time traveller: What year is it?

FBI Agent: 1963

Time traveller: Before or after JFK was…

FBI Agent: Before

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Professional Advice

A doctor and lawyer were chatting at a party. The doctor was constantly interrupted by people describing ailments and asking for free medical advice. After an hour, the exasperated doctor asked the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people asking for legal advice when you’re relaxing?”

“I give it to them and send a bill the next day.” The doctor was shocked, but said he’d give it a try. The next day the doctor prepared bills for those who’d ruined his night out.

When he emptied his mailbox, he found a bill from the lawyer.

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Gordon Brown and the Winter Fuel Allowance

Gordon Brown introduced the Winter Fuel Allowance to solve the problem of seasonal heating costs. He was heavily influenced by the winter of 1996-7. In those winter months there were 49,000 excess deaths. The allowance cost £2 billion in 2019 but is it fit for purpose?

Brown set the allowance at £200 for eligible households. It’s been unchanged for 23 years. Brown left office in 2010, so let’s examine the period 1997-2010 when he was either Chancellor or Prime Minister.

There was 42% inflation in those 13 years.* To maintain the purchasing power of the allowance it should have increased to £284 in 2010. Conservative chancellors didn’t increase the allowance either. It should have risen to £366 in 2020 to rectify 23 years of inflation. Why has it remained unaltered?

Accountants love ring fenced finance but it bemuses pensioners. Brown assumed the Winter Fuel Allowance would be spent on seasonal heating bills. He’s got a PhD in economics and that’s exactly the way he thinks. Meanwhile on Planet Earth pensioners saw it as a welcome bonus. The £200 arrives immediately prior to Christmas, which is exactly not the time when they’re budgeting. So it’s usually spent on presents and food.

The rate of inflation gives the direction of travel for the prices of goods and services. It’s a generalised statement. Some commodities out-perform inflation, whilst others fall in price. Energy prices are notorious for varying quite a bit. However domestic energy bills have more-or-less risen at the rate of inflation over the 23 years. The purchasing power of Winter Fuel Allowance has reduced by 50%+ (see Addendum). This contrasts with the state pension, which has increased from £62.45 p.w. in 1997, to £134.25 in 2020. This is a significant increase in purchasing power.

By adding in ‘extras’ like the Winter Fuel Allowance, the purchasing power of the pension is opaque. Britain has other oddities*** such as the £10 Christmas bonus. It isn’t indexed against inflation, “When it was launched in 1972 it was worth more than the weekly state pension. Had it risen in line with inflation, it would today be worth around £134.”**** As a result, “an average UK pensioner’s income is worth 29% of their earnings at retirement, compared to 51% in Germany, 75% in France and 82% in Spain.”*****

The Winter Fuel Allowance is part of the murky world of Britain’s state pension. Because of unindexed benefits and a state pension which is a political football, British pensioners are poorer than they should be. There should be a consolidation of all of these historic accretions. Deleting all ring fenced benefits is the only way to get clarity on the purchasing power of the state pension.

Addendum: the reducing purchasing power of the Winter Fuel Allowance

In 1997 the Winter Fuel Allowance added 6% to the state pension lifting it from £3247 p.a. to £3447. In 2020 it added 2.86%.


* Inflation calculator | Bank of England

** London property prices have risen in last 20 years by 400% – PropGoLuxury – Property News

*** Christmas Bonus Payment Date 2020 | DWP XB Holiday Bonus (

**** What is the point of the pensioners’ £10 Xmas bonus when it won’t even cover the cost of a turkey?  | This is Money

***** This comparison of pensions in different countries is misleading – Full Fact


For the excess deaths of 1996-7 see Mortality during the 1996/7 winter – PubMed (

For the cost of the allowance see DEBATE: Last year’s winter fuel allowance for pensioners cost almost £2bn – should the benefit be means-tested? – CityAM : CityAM

For eligibility for the allowance see Winter fuel allowance/payment | Age UK

For the annual increase in state pension see Basic state pension rates – Royal London for advisers

For the political nature of Britain’s state pension see A Tale of Two Benefits: Britain 2010-20 | Odeboyz’s Blog (

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Apple gets everywhere

A modernised Heaven. Why not?
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Book Review: Anthony Trollope ~ Phineas Redux (1874)

If Dominic Cummings had read and understood Trollope’s novel he’d still be helping Johnson. He’d have been ultra ingratiating to Johnson’s bride-to-be for a start. A Mr Bonteen was more-or-less promised he’d be the new Chancellor but the wife of one of the principals hated him.

Plantagenet, of all the men that are coming up, your Mr Bonteen is the worst. I often think that you are going down hill, both in character and intellect, but if you go as low as that I shall prefer to cross the water, and live in America.” p328 (Plantagenet was the duke of Omnium and a new ministry couldn’t be formed without him. Mr Bonteen was ditched.)

This is a political novel and much more. Hunting as an obsession is well written – without gore. Great political issues like the Church-State debate and, believe it or not, decimalisation are aired. The marriage ‘market’ where rich women were hunted by men in need of an income is satirised.

There’s routine Victorian anti-Semitism with Mr Bonteen’s murder by either a fellow MP (and society favourite) or a “filthy Jew”. Trollope’s defence lawyer is a Victorian Rumpole of the Bailey character and equally devastating. (Was he the inspiration of John Mortimer’s character?) A society murder trial is the final flourish before a ‘happy ending’.

A wonderful read.

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Introducing work to a college graduate

A young man was hired by a supermarket and reported for his first day of work. The manager greeted him with a warm handshake and a smile. Then he gave him a broom and said, “Your first job is to sweep the store.”

“But I’m a college graduate.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I hadn’t realised. Here, give me the broom — I’ll show you how.”

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