Physical intervention in schools: draft guidance

We are consulting on this draft schools guidance "Included, engaged and involved part 3" which takes a relationship and rights based approach to physical intervention in Scottish schools.

Recording, reporting and monitoring

95. The use of all forms restraint must be recorded. Specific recording expectations are listed in Annex B. The recording and monitoring of the use of restraint has a number of functions:

  • education provider – to ensure accountability and that a child or young person's needs are being met within their school/s, their rights respected and duties of care are being implemented appropriately, towards children and young people and the adults who support them.
  • school – to inform areas of need, understand the reasons why distressed behaviour is occurring, promote reflection and consideration of preventative approaches, focus improvement towards restraint reduction, and meet duties of care towards children and young people and staff.
  • individual - to meet individual needs, inform a functional assessment, improve wellbeing and reduce emotional and physical distress. It is important to understand the distressed behaviour – why now, why in this context and what measures can help to change it.

96. Schools offering residential services are required to report the use of any form of restraint to the Care Inspectorate[42]. While the expectations for reporting outlined in Annex B apply to the use of restraint in the provision of education services, reporting timescales have been aligned to provide consistency for staff working in establishments that provide both education and residential services.

97. Annex G lists the information that should be recorded following the use of restraint. While education providers will use a variety of different systems for recording the use of restraint, it is important that the information listed in Annex G is included in all recording systems currently in use to ensure consistency in approach.

98. This guidance provides advice on the parameters for the use and recording of restraint. To further support preventative action, it may be helpful for education providers to have an appropriate recording and monitoring process in place to aid the analysis of distressed behaviour. In this way, such an analysis may identify approaches that could prevent a child or young person's distress from escalating to a point that physical intervention is required. As such, schools may wish to record the successful use of de-escalation and pupil-led withdrawal to help understand why a child or young person became distressed. Any newly agreed preventative approaches should be recorded in any child's plan. This may also lead to quicker improvements in future, or for learning to be shared across contexts.

99. In line with a rights-based approach, factual, non-judgemental language should be used in all incident recording.

100. The use of any form of restraint is always a significant and serious event. Recording must be completed within two working days of its use and this is must be shared with the education authority, the managers of the grant-aided school or the proprietors of the independent school as appropriate, in line with local procedures, within the same timeframe. This should include sharing with the child or young person's social worker where appropriate.

101. In line with the Additional Support for Learning Statutory Code of Practice (2017), staff should update any child's plan with the agreed preventative action. Pastoral notes should also be updated on the school information management system (SEEMiS) or the relevant school system.

Communication within the school community

102. The use of agreed preventative approaches and physical intervention should happen within a culture of openness and transparency. All members of the school community should be aware of the local physical intervention policy, reporting expectations following any incident and how to raise any concerns. Local policies should be readily available in a variety of formats that are easily accessible and understood by all children and young people, their parents or carers and staff within the school community. This should involve translation into the languages of the school community, where necessary, and include translation into visual formats.

103. The inclusion of information on the school's values, support for children and young people and the physical intervention policy within the school handbook is recommended. All parental engagement on preventative approaches and physical intervention should align with the requirements of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006.[43]


104. Parents and carers of the child or young person who was subject to any form of restraint should be notified at the earliest possible opportunity. This must take place as soon as possible during the school day and, exceptionally, within 24 hours of restraint being used, where it has been possible to make contact or unless alternative contact arrangements have been agreed. Parents/carers should be offered the opportunity to discuss the incident and contribute to any agreed actions. Parent, carers and the child or young person subject to the restraint should be provided with a copy of the incident record. Information should be provided in accordance with data protection law and the Pupils' Educational Records (Scotland) Regulations 2003.

105. Post-incident engagement with the child or young person involved and/or their parents or carers may highlight concerns about the restraint itself or the support that is in place. If these concerns are not resolved at a local level, a formal complaint may be raised under the education provider's complaints procedure. If the concern relates to the support in place to meet a child or young person's individual needs, or alleged discrimination, they may also use the dispute resolution mechanisms under the 2004 Act[44]. The My Rights My Say Service[45] supports children and young people to access their rights under the 2004 Act. Let's Talk: ASN[46] provides advocacy and representation to parents to access their rights under the 2004 Act. The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides advice to anyone seeking information about the 2010 Act.

Child protection referrals

106. Staff should inform police and social work without delay in the following circumstances:

  • if a child or young person has been physically injured or is considered to have suffered significant harm as a result of restraint;
  • if there is a concern that an offence may have been committed by a member of staff towards a child or young person arising from the use of restraint;
  • when a child or young person, their parents or carers raise safety and wellbeing concerns following the use, or repeated use, of restraint.

107. Children and young people and their parents or carers can also initiate a child protection referral by the following routes.

  • Informing school staff or the education provider that they believe they/their child has been mistreated. This can be done at any point following the use of restraint. Staff must then make a child protection referral.
  • Exercising their right to make a complaint to the police about the use of restraint.

108. A child protection referral can run in parallel with local complaints handling and disciplinary procedures.

109. The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021[47] details the process that should be followed along with the information that should be recorded and provided to Social Work or Police Scotland. Information on initiating child protection procedures can be found in Part 3 of the Child Protection Guidance. The guidance also discusses child protection issues arising from the use of restraint in paragraphs 4.153 to 4.160.

110. Child protection procedures will be initiated when police, social work or health determine that a child may have been significantly harmed or may be at risk of significant harm. The child protection investigation will include any suspected offences by a member of staff towards a child or young person arising from the use of restraint.

111. Any injuries to a child or young person following the use of restraint should also be investigated under agreed local disciplinary procedures which may run parallel to any child protection Investigation.

Health and Safety recording

112. Injuries and "near misses" to children, young people or staff involved in any form of restraint should be recorded under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)[48]. This forms part of the education provider's reporting arrangements. New assessments to reduce the risk of injuries recurring should be undertaken and appropriate mitigations put in place to ensure compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974.


113. Regular monitoring and analysis of the use of any form of restraint is essential to the success of restraint reduction approaches. Education authorities, the proprietors (such as the Board of Governors) of independent schools and the managers of grant-aided schools should regularly review restraint data to identify and act upon any emerging trends. This will help inform restraint reduction policies and ensure accountability and challenge, that children and young people's needs are being met, their rights are respected and the duty of care is being enacted appropriately towards children and young people and the adults who support them.

114. Regular monitoring of restraint data by the school leadership team and the education provider will also enable any concerns about the misuse of restraint to be acted upon through a child protection referral, in line with the advice at paragraph 106, and agreed local disciplinary procedures.



Back to top