The Government has recently published guidance on reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention in special schools and health and social care settings.
This guidance aims to help settings adopt a preventative approach to supporting children and young people whose behaviour challenges as a result of learning disabilities, autistic spectrum conditions or mental health difficulties.
Following this, the Department for Education (DfE) has asked for input on whether there is a need for further guidance on the use of restraint and restrictive intervention in mainstream schools, mainstream post-16 settings and educational settings offering alternative provision.
CPI has submitted a response to the consultation which will feed into work being undertaken as part of the DfE’s commitment to publish clearer, more consistent guidance for schools on managing behaviour by summer 2020.
There were several issues we feel very strongly about that we’ve highlighted in our response. As it stands, children are less well protected from abuse and poor practice than adults.
There is no requirement for schools to have a policy in place on the use of force. This allows for variability of restraint policies. Recent Freedom of Information requests we submitted to all local authorities in London, Manchester and Birmingham revealed that schools under these local authorities are not mandated to record incidents of restraint, or the injuries that occur from them.
It is therefore impossible to say how frequently incidents of restraint occur in schools in the UK. This lack of recording presents a real barrier to holding education providers accountable for their safeguarding practices.
A clear policy on the use of restraint will provide clarity for teachers and carers, empowering them with the adequate skills and confidence to protect children, young people and themselves.
Additionally, examples of poor practice in schools, children’s centres, care homes and mental health services have demonstrated the harrowing effects that the misuse and abuse of restrictive practices, including physical restraint and seclusion (which includes ‘time-out’ segregation and confinement to a specific room), can have on vulnerable children and young people. This puts their safety at risk and compromises their human rights.
We believe it is essential that new guidance be introduced as soon as possible to and it must:
Be made statutory and should apply to all education settings.
Include a mandatory requirement for all schools and education settings to have a policy on the use of force, including training requirements.
Align with the Restraint Reduction Network Training Standards – these standards provide a national and international benchmark for training in supporting people who are distressed in education, health and social care settings.
Include mandatory recording and reporting requirements.
CPI also believes the new guidance would have additional benefits alongside there being equal protection for children and adults. Those benefits include reducing emotional and psychological damage, improving teacher retention, and helping to protect the UK’s international reputation for educational excellence.
We encourage Government to rectify the current situation by updating the guidance to protect children and young adults and wait to see the response to the consultation.