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The regulations used in Queensland state schools

The following list shows when some of the European countries abolished corporal punishment in schools13:

  • Poland - 1783
  • Holland - 1850s
  • France - 1887
  • Finland - 1890
  • Norway - 1935
  • Sweden - 1958
  • Denmark - 1968

When Queensland became a separate State in 1859, the Board of General; Education in the following year became responsible for administering State schools. The regulations of this Board copied to a large extent the regulations of its predecessor, the New South Wales Board of National Education. In the regulations of the Board of General Education from 1860 to 1875, no reference was made to the use of corporal punishment in schools. It is fairly certain, however, that the practice of the Normal School in Brisbane was expected in the other schools in the State. The Normal School was regarded as a model school '... in which all candidates for the office of teacher ... are required to pass a probation of at least one month'14. Rule 8 of this school stated that: 'Corporal punishment is not to be inflicted except by the head of each department of the school (i.e. the Boys, the Girls and the Infants Departments)'15.

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This rule is not surprising when one considers the nature of school-keeping in Queensland in those days. Many schools in rural areas were only one-teacher schools. In larger centres, following the practice in England and the southern States16, school buildings usually consisted of one long room which resembled a hall. It was therefore possible for the head teacher to teach his own class and, at the same time, supervise the classes in charge of the less experienced assistant teachers and pupil teachers. The presence of this older head teacher often had a salutary effect on the conduct of the pupils.

In 1876 the Department of Public Instruction came into being. This Department was responsible to a Minister for Education. The regulations issued by this Department in 1876, following earlier practices, stipulated that head teachers had the power to administer corporal punishment but that this power was to be used seldom and with discretion.

However, certain developments took place which no doubt contributed to changes being made to the regulations in 1880. Compulsory education, provided for by the State Education Act of 1875, and a continuing State policy of encouraging immigration resulted in a steady increase in school enrolments. This trend in the larger centres made the single room school impossible. Extra wings were added and separate buildings were constructed. Consequently, the head teacher was no longer able to directly supervise his staff. This placed a greater responsibility on the assistant teacher to maintain his or her own order and to achieve the standards of education which were expected and tested by the district inspector. Probably for this reason, then, the Department changed the regulations in 1880 and gave the head teacher the power to delegate the administering of corporal punishment to an assistant provided that the consent of the Minister was first obtained. This increased the number of teachers who had Departmental approval to inflict corporal punishment. As a form of control on the nature and extent of the punishment, a register of punishments was to be kept.

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From the 1880s, the regulations became more restrictive in terms of who could administer corporal punishment, who could receive it, the reasons for its use and the methods used. These restrictions were in response to changes in accepted educational theory and practice, and protests from parents about excesses in the administration of corporal punishment. Once the restrictions were introduced, they were retained in the face of continual opposition from the Queensland Teachers Union.

In 1885 the regulations made it clear that every case of corporal punishment had to be recorded in the register of punishments. The regulations of 1892 placed restrictions on the offences to be punished by corporal punishment. It was to be used 'only as a last resort' for offences against morality, for gross impertinence and for wilful and persistent disobedience. It was not to be used for trivial breaches of school discipline. Furthermore, all degrading and injurious modes of punishment were strictly prohibited. Specifically mentioned were 'boxing children's ears' and unnatural and long-continued attitudes of restraint such as standing or kneeling. The head teacher was held responsible for the nature and extent of punishment inflicted by an assistant who had been delegated power to use corporal punishment.

A register of corporal punishments for a state school. It contains a reord of the the date, student name, fault made by the student, and the kind and extent of punishment.

Photograph: A page extract from a register of corporal punishments (1936). Click on the image to view a larger sized version.

In 1902 female pupils who had reached the age of 12 were excluded from receiving corporal punishment and in 1908 unnecessarily severe modes of punishment were forbidden.

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In 1914 the Department set out to reduce the number of teachers permitted to administer corporal punishment. When requesting permission to delegate to an assistant the power to administer corporal punishment, the head teacher had to submit the names of those teachers who already had that power. By the 1930s, the Department was not allowing more than one teacher in a school to have this delegated power17.

Additional restrictions were imposed in the regulations of 1934 when all female pupils and members of infant sections (aged 5-7 approximately) were excluded from corporal punishment. Furthermore, corporal punishment could not be used for failure or inability to learn. Only one school cane was to be kept and this cane and the punishment register were to be under the control of the head teacher. All forms of irregular punishment were forbidden. It was thus implied in this regulation that a cane was the only accepted instrument to be used for corporal punishment. A special note was added: a teacher's appraisement would be based on his ability to secure effective government without resorting to the use of corporal punishment.

By 1934, the Department had changed the regulations by progressively placing further restrictions on the use of corporal punishment. Regulation 36 of the education regulations of 1971 dealt more concisely with corporal punishment. The wording of the regulations appeared to leave more to the discretion of the principal of a school. The principal was given the power to authorise the deputy principal to administer corporal punishment. Furthermore, the principal was given an additional reason for corporal punishment:

... gross misconduct at school or when travelling to and from school that is in the opinion of the principal likely to prejudice the good order and discipline of the school.

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Last reviewed
10 January 2013
Last updated
10 January 2013