Education news

Schools warned against use of restraint and force

The Department of Education has published interim guidance on restraint and seclusion

FORCE should only be used against pupils as a measure of last resort, schools have been warned.

The Department of Education has published interim guidance on restraint and seclusion.

The use of both practices on vulnerable children and those with special educational needs is to be debated by the assembly.

A motion, which has cross-party support, has been drawn up by education committee chairman Chris Lyttle of the Alliance Party.

It followed evidence earlier this year from mother Deirdre Shakespeare, from the Harry's Law campaign, who said she only realised how much her son was being restrained at his special school after seeing a photo diary.

The committee was also told that 20 primary-age SEN children reported injuries allegedly caused by restraints used in schools.

Many were non-verbal and parents reported physical injuries including bruising, scratches from Velcro and, in one case, multiple abrasions from being dragged.

Harry's Law would make it compulsory for schools to report to parents and the Education Authority when they restrained or isolated a pupil.

The newly-published guidance says "settings are being reminded that reasonable force/restraint should only be used as a measure of last resort".

"All instances should be recorded, parents/carers should be informed and follow-up support provided to the pupils and staff involved."

The department is undertaking a review which will examine the issue of seclusion, including deprivation of liberty.

"Children should never be locked in a room or left unaccompanied and must be able to leave when they want to," a spokesman said.

"Any changes will be subject to ministerial approval and it is expected that new guidance will issue later this year."

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