When I was at school as a pupil, teachers could touch a child without being accused of all sorts of nastiness. At times, it may have been to discipline them, at other times to offer praise or comfort. It was normal and expected.
Then the whole business of physical contact became an issue as children and their parents chose to wreck teacher's careers by making all sorts of accusations. In some cases, there may have been a foundation to the claims but mostly they were just malicious attempts to get back at a teacher who the children did not like.
Teachers, quite rightly, became cautious and their unions advised them against any sort of physical contact. As an Assistant Headteacher, that posed a problem for me because there were times when I had to break up a fight and the only way was to drag one of the pupils off the other.
In the case of two boys fighting that was less of a problem than where the scrapping pair were girls. When boys fight, they generally stand apart and throw punches; girls, on the other hand, get stuck in and pull hair or anything else they can grab. You have to literally pull them apart to stop the fight.
Now, experts claim that teachers who avoid physical contact with children in the classroom are guilty of child abuse - really!
Members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) say that teachers who do not touch children when they are happy, upset or worried could in fact cause harm and hinder pupils’ development.
“What’s missing is a recognition of how important touch is,” child psychologist Sean Cameron told the Times Educational Supplement, “And that withholding touch is, in itself, a form of psychological abuse.”
So, it is a case of dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.