Publication - FOI/EIR release

Deputy First Minister to Children’s Commissioner on No Safe Place report

Published: 20 Mar 2019

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
20 Mar 2019
Deputy First Minister to Children’s Commissioner on No Safe Place report
FOI reference: FOI/19/00474
Date received: 12 Feb 2019
Date responded: 13 Mar 2019
Information requested

 

You asked for a copy of the Deputy First Minister’s response to the Children’s Commissioner on the report No Safe Place: Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland’s Schools.

 

Response

 

I enclose a copy of all of the information you requested:

 

Dear Mr Adamson

Thank you for your email of 14 December, informing the Scottish Government of the publication of the report ‘No Safe Place: Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland's Schools’.

The use of physical intervention and seclusion of children and young people within schools is a matter which is of significant interest to the Scottish Government and of great concern to me.

I would like to assure you that the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people. Each local authority is responsible for the care, safety and welfare of pupils in school. I am absolutely clear that the use of physical intervention and seclusion should only ever be used as a last resort. It should only be considered in the best interests of ensuring the safety of the child, as part of a de-escalation approach and never for disciplinary purposes.

The national guidance, ‘Included Engaged and Involved Part 2: a positive approach to preventing and managing school exclusions’ reflects this position clearly. The guidance sets the use of exclusion from school within the context of approaches which promote positive relationships and behaviours, early intervention and de-escalation to prevent the need for the use of physical intervention, seclusion and exclusion from school. The aim of this guidance is to prevent the need for exclusion, ensuring all children and young people are able to benefit from education to reach their full potential. This national preventative approach and the associated national guidance has been developed in partnership with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS). SAGRABIS includes representation from all of the main teachers unions, local authorities and other key stakeholders and the group is jointly chaired by COSLA and myself. My response to the report’s recommendations is provided within this context.

I have also asked my officials to undertake a range of engagement with education authorities to explore further the approach to physical intervention and seclusion in light of the ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ guidance. I intend to make use of the information gathered from this process in ensuring the Scottish Government’s response to the Commissioner’s report is as robust as possible. This is reflected in my response to the specific recommendations below.
I welcome the opportunity to consider the recommendations of your report and to provide a response from the Scottish Government. Whilst I do not believe this response should be viewed under the requirements set out in section 11(2)(A) and 11(2)(B), since the Scottish Government would not be considered a service provider, I have responded as requested given the significance of the issue. I note that the report makes 22 recommendations. My response will focus on the 9 recommendations which are aimed at the Scottish Government. I understand that Education Scotland is also providing a response to one further recommendation.

I recognise that recommendation 2 seeks to establish national guidance on restraint and seclusion and to place this within a rights-based national policy. I believe that the current guidance provided by ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ absolutely seeks to protect children and young people’s rights, including their right to education, by placing the use of physical intervention, seclusion and exclusion as measures of last resort, viewed in the wider context of early intervention, de-escalation approaches and developing positive relationships and behaviour within our schools. The aim is to reduce the need to use any form of physical intervention or seclusion. Our extensive engagement with stakeholders supported this approach. However, we will consider this question further in the light of officials’ engagement with education authorities to ensure that the guidance is embedded in local authority policy and practice.

I note that whilst recommendation 3 is directed towards local authorities, it is suggested that anonymised statistical data should be forwarded by them to the Scottish Government’s Children and Families Directorate. I would suggest that, should this recommendation be accepted by local authorities, any such information would be provided to the Education Analytical Services Directorate, in line with our arrangements for the collection of national statistical data.

I understand the reasoning behind recommendation 4. Scottish Government officials will work closely with analytical services colleagues and key stakeholders to carefully consider recommendation 4 further. It is important that we ensure that information of this type is used to inform and continually improve policy and practice.

Recommendation 7 seeks to set national policy and guidance within the human rights framework with specific reference to relevant articles of European, Children’s, Disabled Person’s Rights conventions, and other international human rights instruments. ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ currently recognises the rights of all children and young people and specifically references the UNCRC in relation to the use of physical intervention. However, I recognise that there may be opportunity to strengthen further this part of the guidance and will pursue this with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) and wider stakeholders.

Recommendation 8 seeks to build upon recommendation 7 using case studies and examples of practice in national policy and guidance. As I indicated above, I accept there may well be opportunity to strengthen further this element of the guidance and this specific point will form part of my discussions with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) and wider stakeholders on strengthening the current guidance.

Recommendation 9 seeks that the definition of physical intervention and seclusion are clarified further within national guidance. As with recommendations 7 and 8, I will consider this recommendation with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) and wider stakeholders to ensure that the guidance contained within ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ is sufficiently clear. In light of those discussions, we will amend and strengthen the definitions within the guidance as necessary.

Recommendation 10 seeks to draw upon recommendations 7, 8 and 9 and suggests that national policy guidance should draw upon those proposed approaches to further guide staff in the appropriate and lawful use of physical intervention and seclusion, using examples to clarify the position further. This recommendation will be progressed in light of the further considerations outlined above, to ensure that the guidance contained within ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ is as robust as possible. We will update the guidance as necessary.

Recommendation 11 seeks to ensure that the use of seclusion is appropriate. ‘Included Engaged and Involved Part 2’ currently sets out the circumstances where physical intervention and seclusion may be used, and specifies that: the separation of a pupil must be in a safe place that does not cause any additional stress to the pupil; and that seclusion must be part of an agreed plan. Where seclusion is used, the guidance indicates that it: must be in a place that is safe; is managed under supervision; takes into account any additional support needs of the pupil; and is time-limited. The guidance also sets out that appropriate support and training should be provided by education authorities, including follow-up action. I will also consider this recommendation with the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) and wider stakeholders to ensure that the guidance contained within ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’ provides sufficient clarity on this issue. In light of those discussions, and where necessary, we will amend the guidance.

Recommendation 13 indicates that the Scottish Government and local authorities should ensure that policies make clear that physical intervention and seclusion are measures of last resort. As indicated above, this position is explicit within ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’, alongside the expectation that seclusion is used to ensure the safety of a child or young person, or others. The national policy also focusses towards approaches which promote positive relationships and behaviours, early intervention and de-escalation to prevent the need for the use of physical intervention, seclusion and exclusion from school.

However, the key issue is ensuring that the position set out in national policy and guidance is reflected consistently and accurately in local practice. To that end, and as described earlier, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland officials, in collaboration with COSLA and ADES, are currently engaging with all 32 local authorities on this issue. These engagement sessions are focused on prevention and de-escalation and aim to establish if there are any barriers to implementing the guidance published in ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2’, in order to identify if any further support is required to assist implementation. These engagement sessions will allow thorough consideration of the role of guidance within the context of a number of the report’s recommendations, but recommendation 13 in particular. This work is already underway and a qualitative report will be produced in spring 2019. I would be happy to share those findings with you in due course.

Once I have had the opportunity to consider these matters alongside key partners, as set out above, I will of course respond to you in more detail on the planned approach.

I trust that this information reassures you of my commitment to addressing concerns about this issue, and to working with partners to ensure that the use of physical intervention and seclusion is only ever used as a last resort.

 

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