Physical intervention in schools: draft guidance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.

Professional learning

118. Staff at all levels within any school are responsible for their professional learning. They should be supported to develop their knowledge and expertise in supporting children and young people's wellbeing and delivering a child-centred and rights-respecting learning experience. As the only way staff can impact upon a child or young person's distress is by altering what they do and how the context functions around the child or young person, appropriate ongoing professional learning that encourages a high level of reflective practice, analysis and self-evaluation is crucial. Staff should be supported to access and engage in professional learning opportunities in this area.

119. Many staff already have the skills to support children and young people's mental and physical wellbeing, informed by the health and wellbeing curriculum. Many also have a high level of knowledge in areas such as nurture principles, trauma-informed approaches, understanding neurodevelopmental differences and safe handling of children and young people with complex additional support needs. Consistent with this guidance, it is recommended that education providers, schools and individual staff consider any further professional learning opportunities or requirements in the following areas:

  • promoting positive relationships and behaviour;
  • trauma-informed and nurturing approaches;
  • restorative approaches to supporting positive relationships and behaviour;
  • recognising and supporting the additional support needs of children and young people in their care;
  • support children and young people with autism and learning disabilities;
  • preventative approaches to addressing distressed behaviour; and
  • completion and use of communication passports

Nurturing approaches

120. It is important for schools to recognise that children and young people and staff may be affected by trauma and adversity. There are a number of professional learning approaches available on the National Improvement Hub to support schools to develop and implement trauma informed approaches[50].

Physical intervention

121. Staff should be supported to exercise the education providers' duty of care responsibilities towards children and young people in the school. Where staff are working in environments where there is a significant ongoing risk of distress or there may be at risk of physical harm, then the following points may help inform a decision around appropriate professional learning options, in conjunction with an assessment of the child or young person's needs:

  • Staff at all levels within a school are likely to benefit from professional learning in preventative approaches to help them create positive learning environments for their children and young people, assess and plan for meeting their individual needs and apply early intervention, de-escalation and co-regulation strategies when necessary.
  • An understanding of the impacts of neurodevelopmental differences, such as autism and learning disabilities, will form a useful part of any professional learning on preventative approaches.
  • An understanding of the impact of sensory needs and the sensory environment on children and young people's ability to cope and how to establish positive non-verbal communication with children and young people will form a useful part of any professional learning on preventative approaches.
  • As part of the package of support for all staff, including coaching, mentoring, supervision, staff will benefit from professional learning on how to remain emotionally resilient. This may include how organisational self-care at a school and, where appropriate, education authority level can contribute towards this.
  • It is not expected that a large number of staff within an education setting would require restraint training. However, where a health and safety risk assessment indicates restraint as a foreseeable possibility, consideration should be given to training an appropriate number of staff.
  • Where restraint is a foreseeable possibility, schools should use restraint training that is certified as complying with Restraint Reduction Network (RRN) training standards[51]. This will ensure:
    • training is human rights-focused
    • that staff also receive training in preventative approaches
    • that trainers have the appropriate expertise to train in schools
    • that training in techniques is safe and proportional to that required within the schools and is appropriate for use on children
    • that training includes hearing from people who have been restrained
    • that training is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service[52] as meeting the ISO standards[53] for certification
  • No member of staff should attempt to undertake any form of restraint without having completed training in its safe use, which should be Restraint Reduction Network certified, given the risk of harm to the child or young person and themselves. The only exception to this would be in the in the unforeseen and unavoidable exercise of their duty of care.
  • Staff who have undertaken professional learning in restraint should participate in refresher professional learning as often as is considered necessary in order to maintain an appropriate level of competence and must do so at least annually, in order to continue practising these techniques. Education providers should maintain an overview of this.
  • Refresher professional learning should include refreshing staff knowledge and awareness of preventative approaches including de-escalation and not only restraint.
  • Additionally there may be a requirement for school leadership teams to be supported in how to carry out risk assessments, as advised by the Health and Safety Executive, in relation to child or young person behaviour which could result in harm. This should also be supported by Educational Psychology, with regards to approaches which reduce risk. Such risk assessments should be child-centred.



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