All school staff to be trained to avoid physical restraint
The Ministry of Education has launched new rules and guidelines to help schools understand more about student distress and minimise the use of physical restraint. The guidelines also aim to eliminate the use of unjustified restraint.
The rules and guidelines took effect from 7 February 2023 and signal the start of mandatory training for all school staff.
All teachers and authorised staff members will have to complete online training to identify stress triggers, understand unmet needs and prevent, minimise and respond to student distress. The aim is not to use physical restraint except as a last resort.
Training for school staff must be completed by February 2024. New staff will need to complete the training as part of their induction.
Since changes were made to the Education and Training Act 2020, schools can use physical restraint on students only when there are no other options to keep everyone safe.
A new online reporting form has also been launched this year to make it simpler to report incidents effectively. It will also be mandatory to record if the child being restrained has a learning support need or a disability.
“We already know it’s disproportionately Māori and now we will know that it will be disproportionately disability,” says IHC Advocate Shara Turner.
The guidelines were created in response to the changes and to calls from schools for more clarity about when it is acceptable to use physical restraint and what is acceptable physical contact.
“The new guidelines will hopefully get more schools to think about moving to zero restraint,” says Shara, who was a member of the Physical Restraint Advisory Group of parents and education sector and disability sector representatives working with the Ministry of Education.
“We don’t think kids should be restrained because of disability-related behaviours,” she says. “I don’t think any teacher enjoys restraining kids. But with the family, it affects them for a long time. Restraint is harmful and we need to realise that.”
Shara says a lot of the behaviour is actually about communication. “If restraint is happening, then something is going on.”
Shara says the research available on restraint has found that the person doing the restraint and the person being restrained are impacted.
“Families talk about trauma a lot when it comes to restraint – the trauma of being restrained but also the fact that disabled students are often retriggered by earlier incidents of restraint or responses from people that lack understanding.”
She says it will be really good for the data on the use of physical restraint to be collected for all schools.
The changes would allow future reporting through schools’ student management systems and make the process simpler for schools.
Caption: restraint guidelines were initially asked for by teachers. Photograph by Taylor Flowe of Unsplash.