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Safeguarding Children

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 30 March 2010


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

On 18 January I asked Sir Roger Singleton, the Government’s independent Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children, to review the use of the defence of reasonable punishment in certain part-time educational and learning settings to establish the key issues and whether it was an area where we needed to consider a change in the interests of strengthening safeguards for children.

Sir Roger has now provided a report, Physical Punishment: Improving Consistency and Protection, containing his advice and recommendations, for which I am very grateful. I appreciate the extensive work he has undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders and the careful consideration he has given to this complex and sensitive issue.

Sir Roger’s main recommendation is that the current ban on physical punishment in schools and other children’s settings should be extended to include any form of advice, guidance, teaching, training, instruction, worship, treatment or therapy and to any form of care or supervision which is carried out other than by a parent or member of the child’s own family or household. This will resolve the discrepancy whereby a teacher is banned from smacking a child in a school, but the same teacher could administer physical punishment in an out-of-school setting. I believe this is a sensible and proportionate solution to removing this inconsistency.

Secondly, Sir Roger has recommended that the Government should continue to promote positive parenting strategies and effective behaviour management techniques directed towards eliminating the use of smacking. Parents who disapprove of smacking should make this clear to others who care for their children.

Thirdly, he has recommended that the development of appropriate safeguarding policies in informal education and learning organisations should continue to be promoted. Legal changes which flow from adoption of these recommendations will need to be communicated effectively.

The Government have accepted Sir Roger’s recommendations in full and we are committed to implementing them as soon as possible.

I have placed copies of Sir Roger’s report and the Government’s response in the Libraries of both Houses.