§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, 611the accusations of excessive beatings at Litherland high school, Sterrix Lane, in my constituency, and what seems to be a breakdown in law and order at this school.This matter is specific because, it relates to a secondary high school that, over the last two weeks, has featured in the news since a school teacher at the school, Mr. Alan Corkish, revealed that 1,895 slipperings had occurred over the last four terms—which is eight a day and one every 35 minutes in respect of only 400 boys—including such cases as one boy being beaten seven times and another five times in a two-week period.
Even the advocates of corporal punishment in schools claim that it should be used only as a last resort, for its deterrent value. This is far from the situation in Litherland school, where violence, institutionalised in the way that it is, seems to be the norm rather than the exception.
The matter is important, because recently there seems to have been an almost complete breakdown in the school's functioning and discipline. Accusations are being made of such things as illicit beatings, over and above those that I have mentioned already, not being recorded in the punishment book, thus breaching Government regulations. They include allegations of the use of an unorthodox cane, an unauthorised teacher giving corporal punishment, and regular slappings and cloutings, resulting in one teacher appearing before the governing body following complaints from parents.
Near-riots seem to have broken out in the school, including allegations of teachers turning a hosepipe On children. These riots or demonstrations seem to be inspired by the children themselves, on behalf of Alan Corkish, the teacher who made public the school punishment book and who is to attend a disciplinary hearing of the school governors tonight. No disciplinary action is necessary. Either the head and the governors of the school are not ashamed of their punishment book and should not object to it being made public, or they are ashamed and Alan Corkish was more than right to make it public.
This matter is crying out for urgent consideration by the House for two important and urgent reasons. First, the House has been misled by the Secretary of State for Education and Science and his Under-Secretary. On Friday 6 February I asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science
if he will arrange for Her Majesty's inspectors to visit Litherland high school, Bootle, in the light of accusations of excessive punishment in that school.The Under-Secretary replied:Discipline within the school is a matter for the head teacher, acting within any guidelines issued by the local education authority. It is not the function of Her Majesty's Inspectorate to investigate complaints about cases of corporal punisliments."— [Official Report, 6 February 1981; Vol. 998 c. 225.]That reply is not only totally inadequate but inaccurate, as the Secretary of State has power to intervene in circumstances such as those pertaining at Litherland High School. Under the Education Act 1944—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) is testing the patience of the House in relation to our Standing Order No. 9 procedure. He is also endangering it. The hon. Gentleman cannot make the speech that he would make if I were to grant his application.
§ Mr. Roberts
Finally then, this matter needs to be debated urgently, mainly because the Secretary of State 612 has already misled the House. Under the Education Act 1944 he has the power to intervene. I am sure that he did not mean to mislead the House.
Therefore, I hope that you will be able to grant an emergency debate, Mr. Speaker, in order to clear the air in my constituency and in the House and to satisfy the parents of the children at the school, if no one else.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the accusations of excessive beatings at Litherland high school, Sterrix Lane, in the hon. Member's constituency, and. what seems to be a breakdown in law and order at this school.I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, that I cannot submit his application to the House.