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Physical Interventions

Advice and help regarding behaviour management would normally be available through the school Behaviour Co-ordinator, or equivalent, the head teacher and senior management team and by accessing members of the Pupil Support Team.

The routine use of physical intervention is not advocated in Orkney’s schools. There is an underlying assumption that the well developed, positive, ethos common to all schools in Orkney will generally mean that physical intervention is unnecessary. It is also recognised that there are many aspects to developing a positive ethos which may be adapted and emphasised for the small numbers of children who have particularly demanding needs. In particular an adaptive curriculum, thoughtful approaches to the teaching environment and reflective teacher skills are important. Controlled distractions, physical prompts and guides may prevent escalation to a requirement to restrain. A significant implication of this approach is that physical intervention in any form is an extension of the school’s approach to support and care and may never be used as a punishment.

The Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2000, Section 16(4), indicates that physical restraint of a pupil in order to avert an immediate danger of personal injury to, or an immediate danger to the property of, any person, including the pupil concerned, will not be held to be corporal punishment.

In general it is recognised that any person who touches another person without his or her consent commits an unlawful act. In making appropriate use of restraint therefore it must be possible to show that, unless immediate action had been taken, there were strong indicators that personal injury or damage to property would follow. It should be noted however that danger to property is not an adequate ground for physical intervention unless the consequences of the damage are likely to be serious. Members of staff should not place themselves in personal danger merely to safeguard property.

Physical intervention should only be used if non physical methods are ineffectual and in the reasoned judgment of the member of staff, the pupil’s behaviour is likely to cause harm. There are no other circumstances in which the use of physical force against a pupil is justified. Inappropriate or excessive use of force may result in criminal proceedings for assault. Civil proceedings could also be raised. Additionally, disciplinary proceedings would be taken against members of staff if there is evidence of inappropriate or excessive use of force.

The Education Authority, schools and teachers have a duty of care in relation to the physical well-being of pupils. Choosing not to intervene when there is evidence that a greater and significant harm may occur, could result in allegations of negligence and consequent civil litigation.

Where a school finds that staff are needing to consider restraint, as part of the care programme for a child or young person, the head teacher should seek advice from the Service Improvement Officer.

The school and staff team will be advised on risk assessment and de-escalation approaches to managing complex behaviours. Following a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of both the individual behaviour and the school context, physical restraint training may be offered as an outcome.

Risk Assessment

For some children and young people it is appropriate to assess the risk they present, to themselves and others, in some detail. The need to carry out this type of risk assessment may have been flagged up as part of a care plan or IEP, and information from other places should be sought as part of the process.

In essence, the risk assessment should consider:

  • Identification of the risk - what, likelihood, who is affected?
  • Assessment - where is it likely, how likely, who will be hurt, how serious are outcomes?
  • Responses to this risk – prevention, early action and responses.

This should not be a long process. With key personnel involved it will probably take no more than half an hour.

Implementing the plan may be straight forward, perhaps as simple as avoiding a particular place, or more complex, for example, further training needs may be identified, but in any case action must follow the processes detailed in the agreed plan.

Distribution of the plan should be to all appropriate staff. It would be usual for parents to see and approve the plan and essential if, for example, physical intervention was seen as a possible outcome. Temporary staff, perhaps supply teachers, often do not know the issues, so should have risk management strategies shared with them before taking responsibility.

Any risk management plan must be revisited regularly and revised in the light of further information or incidents.

A number of schools have been using a single page form which is given on the next page and this may be adapted as required. An extended version may be downloaded from the Scottish Executive’s “Holding Safely” document, available within Related Sites.

There is also much more detail in this document about the risk assessment process.

For advice or assistance contact the Pupil Support Team

Support for Pupils, Education Leisure and Housing, Orkney Islands Council, School Place, Kirkwall KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856873535.

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