Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Using restraint cautiously

Caution tape

Reports in the newspapers about an appeal court decision to overturn a set of regulations on restraint in institutions for young offenders may have raised some concerns; particularly since the issue was using restraint for the preservation of 'good order and discipline', a phrase that is also used in the law on teachers.

There should not be any concern, however. The judgement was specifically directed at very particular kinds of restrictive holds and the deliberate infliction of pain to 'distract' a violent young offender.

None of these techniques would be used by teachers in mainstream schools and where holds are used elsewhere, staff should be trained in their use, their use should be subject to risk assessment and there should be regular discussion of situations where it is necessary, so that staff will exercise informed judgement as well as having the necessary skills.

It does, however, raise the issue as to whether training may lead to trouble. After all, a little learning can be a dangerous thing. If training is about handling inflammatory situations and how to defuse them - and discussion is about using minimum force - then the training should be helpful.

It should not be training that leads staff to think that they are in any way obliged to get 'up close and personal' with violent young people.

The danger is that staff may feel that after one day's training they are able to, or have a duty to intervene to restrain out of control young people and the results may be at best unfortunate and at worst catastrophic. The aftermath may be legal action against all concerned.

The legislation on restraint is intended to cover those minor interventions that teachers have always exercised; it is not intended to extend its scope to actions that put staff, and very likely their pupils, at risk. The Appeal Court case came about partly because of deaths in custody inflicted by personnel who had been trained for the purpose.

If they can get it wrong, how much more can partly trained teachers?

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