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Teachers want physical restraint training to handle disruptive pupils

Avril Hall Callaghan speaking to the Ulster Teachers' Union conference in Newcastle. Picture by Kevin Cooper

INADEQUATE training in physical restraint techniques could place vulnerable children and their teachers in danger, a teaching union conference has heard.

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) yesterday discussed the increasingly complex issues surrounding children with special educational needs.

General secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said restraint had to be used on some occasions if a child was in danger of hurting themselves or someone else.

If children and teachers were to be safe, she said, then classroom staff needed specialist training.

"Morale among teachers here is at an all-time low because of a lack of investment in training and support in this area, especially in the SEN sector," she said.

"If teachers are not to be left open to litigation by parents and if children in their care are to be safely restrained should the situation arise, the teachers need to be trained in appropriate techniques.

"Teachers in the SEN sector put up with biting, scrabbing and kicking on a daily basis - it's only if the child maybe lifts something to hit the teacher with that they regard the situation as out of the ordinary."

Ms Hall Callaghan added that employing authorities should take note of the changing attitudes highlighted by a recent case of constructive dismissal taken by a member of staff whose finger was broken by a pupil with SEN.

"Their case was upheld by the Equality Commission and a pay-out made which shows what way the law in going in relation to this," she said.

"Until recently it was almost taken for granted that staff should expect this kind of thing to happen when working in the SEN sector but a case like this shows that the employing authorities must regard their duty of care with the utmost importance."

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