The Teaching Council has been working hard on your behalf for more than a year to clarify how physical force is used in schools.
Last night the Government introduced the Education and Training Bill, proposing changes to the current confusing framework based on our joint recommendations working with the Ministry of Education and invaluable input from the disability sector.
Currently the legislation is confusing and places a high threshold for using physical restraint to situations where 'the safety of the student or of any other person is at serious and imminent risk' which has had the effect of deterring teachers from intervening before a situation gets serious. You have told us the current regulatory framework is unclear about what you can, cannot and should not do.
So, what are the proposed changes? Part 3, subpart 3 of the Education and Training Bill makes it clearer that teachers and authorised staff members can physically intervene when there is no other option to keep everyone in their school safe from harm. The Bill updates the expressions “physical restraint” and “physically restrain” to “physical force”.
The proposed changes remove the word ‘serious’ from ‘serious and imminent risk’. This is important to enable teachers to use their professional judgement to de-escalate situations before they become serious and act in the interests of all learners’ wellbeing (both emotional and physical). Any use of physical force would need to be reasonable and proportionate. This brings the language of the Bill more closely into line with the language in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
What isn’t changing is the shared understanding that underpins all this work: physical intervention is a last resort. All parents and teachers seek the same thing – that the environment all children are in at school is safe and supportive, and that any kind of physical force should be a last resort.
It is still early days as the new bill moves into its first reading and we will continue working with you, other stakeholders and the disability sector to create practical guidance and examples in practice to support the proposed law change.