Physical Intervention Working Group - Guidance sub group minutes: January 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 28 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Representatives from the following organisations attended:

  • Scottish Government (Chair & secretariat)
  • The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland
  • Angus Council
  • Educational Institute of Scotland
  • British Institute of Learning Disabilities
  • CALM Training
  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
  • Education Scotland
  • Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland
  • Association of Principal Education Psychologists
  • South Lanarkshire Council

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

Scottish Government officials welcomed everyone to the call, and attendees introduced themselves.

Note of previous meeting (17 December 2020)

The following amendment was requested:

  • page 3 – Under 4.2 restraint, point 6 in guidance is accurate, delete words after medicine

All members were asked to confirm any further amendments by Friday 5 February, before the note is published on the Scottish Government’s website.

Enable Scotland engagement sessions – update

The Scottish Government provided an update on some of the emerging themes from the engagement sessions they have held with Enable Scotland’s young adults and family connect networks in January 2021. Following the final young people engagement session on 28 January, the Scottish Government will prepare a feedback report and send to the group for their consideration.

The Enable Scotland sessions involved their existing ACE connect (young people and young adults) and Family Connect networks. The ACE connect networks included members with learning disabilities. These networks were previously involved in Enable Scotland’s In Safe Hands Campaign and are familiar with the topic of restraint and seclusion in schools. Members also had recent lived experience of restraint. Emerging themes and key points from the group’s discussion are recorded below. 

  • children and young people placed a high value on having a choice about where to go if they become distressed
  • a ‘safe space/sanctuary’ within a school could be any part of the campus that the child felt comfortable or relaxed in e.g. running track, art or workshop spaces
  • cards can be used by children to get out of class a certain amount of times per week as part of an agreed approach to self-regulation of distressed behaviour
  • the location/name of a place where a child goes to should be identified as part of the process of forming a positive behaviour plan
  • the availability of safe, appropriately supervised spaces is dependent on the facilities and resources of the individual school
  • there may be occasions when a child is too distressed to rationally communicate their preference from a range of options. In such circumstances the pressure of being asked to make a decision could add to their distress

Action: Scottish Government will share a copy of the engagement session report once available.

Draft guidance chapters

The sub group discussed the following draft chapters.

Physical intervention

The Scottish Government advised that the physical intervention chapter has been restructured to reflect the differentiation between restrictive and non-restrictive physical interventions.

Indirect physical restrictions

The group discussed the indirect physical restrictions listed below. Comments from group members are listed under each of the headings.


  • the definition of seclusion is a negative definition due to the use of language. However, the definition is clear and therefore it is difficult to justify its use
  • the guidance should outline a presumption against the use of any form of seclusion, unless there is a clear human rights compliant case for use
  • each local authority should have an inclusion leadership group that have an inclusion manager, psychology, outreach, asn manager, Headteacher reps. The group should be overseeing the use of restraint, monitoring use and looking at additional support that can be put in place to reduce the use of restraint in future
  • seclusion should be something that is difficult for a school to do. It is a restriction of liberty. Reference needs to be made to supervision of a child being secluded
  • being involuntary locked in a room with supervision from outside is seclusion
  • seclusion is not an alternative for exclusion. Further consideration is needed to determine whether any use of such practice would be human rights compliant

Time out

  • time out’ describes a wide range of practice based on behavioural psychology that removes a child from ‘positive reinforcements’ of a planned behaviour. Time out has to be used with caution as it is used as a form of punishment. It is prone to misuse and can in such circumstances can be counterproductive
  • teacher led or reactive time out raises concerns as an indirect restrictive intervention
  • the correct use of time out, when agreed by parents, pupils and staff can be positive

Internal exclusion

  • if a child is removed from their classroom into another class with teacher supervision, this is not seclusion. In such circumstances, removing a child from their peer group is internal exclusion
  • the guidance should create space for the use of pupil-led withdrawal to help their self-regulation of distressed behaviour
  • staff need ways of separating children from their peers/teacher in emergency situations to meet children’s needs and effectively deliver lessons

Case studies

  • further detailed context is needed for draft case studies on page 26 to be clear for staff
  • 3 examples were shared. (1) what to do instead/when is it justifiable on human rights grounds - child running out of class and not being able to get passed a fobbed door (but when open will leave school premises, leading to policy being followed of police being called), (2) child repeatedly in a dysregulated state setting off a fire alarm & acting aggressively, (3) child throwing objects, biting and spitting on peers on a daily basis so educated on a 1:1 in a room and not allowed in other areas
  • illustrative case studies in the guidance will be very important. Examples of practice that works well and is evidence-based on the rights of the child will help

Wider comments

  • agreed definitions for each of these practices should be included within a glossary of terms
  • behaviour support assistants are helpful in supporting preventative and de-escalation approaches in schools
  • the rights of children with learning difficulties must be clear in the guidance to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable pupils are upheld
  • positive relationships, communication and time are key to the success of preventative approaches. Consideration should be given to where this is not happening
  • it is important to challenge attitudes to ensure empathy is built into practice
  • the guidance should support inclusive practice and the use of resources in mainstream learning environments (particularly primaries)
  • it is the ‘team around the child’ that is involved in decision making about all interventions

Any other business

The Scottish Government have asked for further comments on the draft guidance sent on Tuesday 26 January by correspondence.

Action: All group members to consider latest draft and provide comments.

Timeline for completion

For a public consultation to be launched on the draft guidance prior to parliamentary recess for the Scottish Parliamentary elections, the draft would need to be completed by the end of February 2021.

Action: The Scottish Government and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner representative will meet to discuss the current timeframe for completing the draft guidance in light of wider policy and legislative developments such as the UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill. 

Date of next meeting

The Scottish Government will consider the latest comments from sub group members, once received, and following discussions with the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland regarding timescales, will contact group members to agree a date for the next meeting.

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