Founded in 1968, the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP) was a pressure group which campaigned for the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and other institutions in the United Kingdom.
It lobbied government officials, parliament, the churches, local education authorities, unions teachers' organisations and other bodies, wrote constantly to the press and published surveys and reports. It also investigated individual cases and supported families taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights. After corporal punishment was abolished in all state-supported education in the UK in 1986, the Society wound up its affairs. The Children's Legal Centre carried on its remaining casework and the residue of its funds were transferred to the group End Physical Punishment of Children (EPOCH).
Brief history of the corporal punishment in schools 1967-1987
1967 - the Plowden Report recommends the abolition of corporal punishment.
1968 - the Labour government issues Circular 1/68 stating schools should use corporal punishment less frequently.
1970-1974 - Conservative government states policies on corporal punishment should be decided on a local level by the Local Education Authorities (LEAs).
1976 - MP David Canavan brings a Private Members Bill calling for abolition; it is defeated 181 votes to 120.
1976 - Mrs Campbell and Mrs Cosans apply to the European Commission for their cases to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights
1977 - the Labour government begins consultation with the unions on the subject (most unions, at this point were in support of retaining corporal punishment)
1979/80 - both the Labour and Liberal parties adopt a pro-abolition stance
July 1981 - Labour leader Neil Kinnock (Shadow Education Secretary) states a Labour government would introduce legislation to ban corporal punishment
February 1981 the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) bans the use of corporal punishment in all its schools
February 1982 - Campbell and Cosans versus UK judgment states UK parents should have the right to refuse corporal punishment as a form of discipline for their child(ren)
April 1982 - National Union of Teachers (NUT) adopts a pro-abolition stance
July 1982 - Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association (AMMA) adopts a pro-abolition stance
July 1983 - Department of Education and Science (DES) issues a consultation paper in response to the Campbell and Cosans judgment
1985 - Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill is introduced proposing a two-tier system and is opposed by the House of Lords
22 July 1986 - Education (No 2) Bill is passed abolishing the use of corporal punishment in state schools
November 1986 - the Education (No 2) Act becomes law
15th August 1987 - the use of corporal punishment in state schools becomes illegal
Campbell and Cosans case to the passing of the Education (No 2) Act 1986
In 1976 two Scottish mothers, Jane Cosans and Grace Campbell applied to the European Commission for their cases to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights. Mrs Campbell was the mother of a primary school aged child. Although her child had never received corporal punishment the local Council had refused her request that they guarantee her child was never caned. Mrs Cosans was the mother of a secondary school pupil who had refused to be caned (with his parents' support). The response from the local council was to suspend the boy from school until he ceased to be of compulsory school age.
The case claimed the use of corporal punishment in schools was contrary to Article 3 of the European Court of Human Rights stating that 'none shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' and Article 2 that 'no person shall be denied the right to education'. In 1980 the Commission ruled that although Article 2 applied in this case, Article 3 did not. The case was heard by the Court in 1982, and the judgment, made on 25th February 1982, ruled British parents must have the right to refuse that corporal punishment be used to discipline their children in state schools.
In July 1983 the Department of Education and Science (DES) finally published a consultation document in response to the judgment but little action was taken until the introduction of the Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill 1985. Devised by Sir Keith Joseph (Secretary of State for Education), who opposed an outright ban, the Bill created two classes of pupil: those pupils who could receive physical punishment; and those who could not (depending on the personal view of their parents). The Bill received a lot of criticism - mainly that two pupils could receive different punishment for the same misdemeanour. The Bill was opposed by the House of Lords by a majority of four (108 to 104) and was withdrawn by the government a few weeks later. Within weeks a number of Local Education Authorities banned the use of corporal punishment in their schools.
In 1986 the government introduced the Education (No 2) Bill. When it was returned to the Commons from the Lords an abolitionist clause had been attached. Popular pressure meant the government allowed MPs a free vote in the Commons. After a debate in the House of Commons that lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes MPs approved the Lords amendment by a single vote (231-230). The 1986 Education Act which abolished the use of corporal punishment in state schools became law on 7th November 1986. Corporal punishment itself was banned from 15th August 1987.