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How two parents stopped corporal punishment in UK schools

Landmark human rights case saved millions of children from being “belted” by teachers
19"00 15 June 2015 Council of Europe Strasbourg

In 1970s Scotland, Grace Campbell, a mother of two small boys, asked the teachers at their school to give her a guarantee that her children would not be subjected to corporal (meaning physical) punishment as a method of discipline in the classroom. When the school refused to give such a guarantee, Mrs Campbell embarked on an eight year legal process to get the practice banned in UK schools. She first had to make her case at every level of the British legal system. When she lost in the highest court in the land, the House of Lords, she was finally able to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where she and her husband won the legal arguments, thereby obliging the UK government to change the law, which effectively led to the end of corporal punishment in all UK state schools.

This extraordinary documentary tells the story of how two parents fought tenaciously for their beliefs that hitting children in school was morally wrong. It includes interviews with one of their sons, who went on to become a human rights lawyer. He explains how his family was victimised by some in their local community who didn’t share their convictions. By interviewing several experts in the field of child protection, the film also shows how this landmark case set in motion a Europewide movement to extend children’s rights well beyond the issue of whether violence should be used as a method of enforcing discipline in schools.

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