Teaching unions wanted to keep strap
A 'SCOOP' by the Irish Independent, revealing the Government's intention to abolish corporal punishment in schools, triggered angry exchanges between the Department of Education and the teaching unions.
Officials of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) were annoyed that they were asked to meet the minister and departmental officials on October 19, 1981 – only to discover in that morning's Irish Independent that corporal punishment was about to be outlawed.
In newly released state archives, it is clear that the 'scoop' caused considerable friction between the two sides.
"The minister explained that the (Irish Independent's) information in relation to the meeting did not come from him or the department.
"The teachers' unions denied that the leak had come from their side," an official memo from the meeting revealed.
The abolition of corporal punishment was outlined as official government policy.
"(The) mandate from the Government is to implement the decision without delay."
However, both the INTO and ASTI queried the impact that such a measure would have on discipline.
"Any sudden abolition of corporal punishment, which is a deterrent for many pupils, could cause bedlam," the memo warned.
"Both (unions) made reference to a breakdown in school discipline, to the need to be able to cope with the totally disruptive pupils, for the need of back-up services and for more remedial and support services, small classes and for a review of the curriculum, which was not suitable for all pupils."