On Sunday at 11am April 9th, BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast a special programme investigating the use of restraint in special schools. A member of the CBF team was interviewed on the programme, alongside family carers of children who have experienced restraint at school and other professionals involved in the field.
The programme has brought out into the open, the pressing need for reporting and recording procedures to be more robust and transparent in all schools and it would be positive if it became a requirement from the DFE for all “restraints” to be reported to parents and local authorities (where schools are still maintained), with Ofsted checking the procedures when they came into schools. They do this about health and social care already. Then Academies and Multi Academy Trusts could report “restraints” to central government.
Unfortunately, the programme was guilty of using emotive language in relation to the use of the prone position i.e. “pinned down”. It is not a “position” that causes significant injuries, it is what adults do or do not do, when the child / young person/adult is in that position. See news article: “Misleading and inaccurate information regarding Team Teach” for more information about the Team Teach statements on the use of ground holds, including prone holds.
It is surprising that the programme did not mention the tragic case (seated position) of Gareth Myatt, or the use of pain-compliant restraint techniques taught by (Not Team-Teach) various training providers, or the dangers of staff using less robust, ineffective techniques where potentially the incident lasts longer, with higher risk of serious injury to children and staff. Or staff use an unauthorised, untrained response where the risks are not assessed. See article entitled: “Care provider prosecuted after death of patient during restraint”.
The testimony of Zander, student at Millgate was positive and showed the value of staff using strategies that “hold on to” the child and see them through their difficult times, with the relationship between the individual being held and staff being protected and enhanced.
It is vital that we continue to support employers and staff, who are required (duty of care) to establish and maintain safe working environments, so that effective teaching, learning and caring can take place. To do this, they will need access to a range of effective positive behaviour support strategies and interventions, with an emphasis on diffusion and de-escalation, with the use of force as a last resort, with a need for a clear and workable definition of restraint*, requiring, where foreseeable, a process of written personalised planning including agreed de-escalation and physical intervention strategies, as well as, recording, reporting and review procedures with the parents actively involved.
There will be, hopefully draft DFE guidance coming out soon aimed at Special Schools, replacing the DFE/DOH Joint RPI guidance of July 2002. We will, given an opportunity, offer a considered input when it does come out. It will be in the interests of those working in all schools, supporting children and young people with their behaviours that challenge, to have their views expressed and taken into account.