Government must quickly publish advice on pupil restraint, union says

NASUWT members backed a motion saying the Scottish Government had abdicated its responsibility.

Scottish Government must quickly publish advice on pupil restraint, NASUWT union says PA Media

A teaching union has called on the Scottish Government to publish urgent guidance on the physical restraint of pupils during classroom violence.

At the NASUWT conference in Harrogate, members backed a motion saying there has been “a clear and complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the Scottish Government” in failing to provide new advice on seclusion and the use of restraint.

Statistics published from a union survey last year showed four in 10 Scottish teachers reported experiencing violence or physical abuse in the previous 12 months, while 93% said the issue had increased.

Draft guidance published by ministers in 2020 said restraint should only be used as a “last resort to prevent harm, with the minimum necessary force and for the minimum necessary time”.

However, the Scottish Government’s pledge to publish more concrete guidance by the end of 2023 was not met.

Previous guidance on physical intervention and seclusion was published in 2017 and remains in place.

During the NASUWT conference, the motion’s proposer Rod McCready said: “Why are we still waiting for this essential guidance 18 months after the Scottish Government consultation closed?

“Everyone knows the current context in schools. As we have moved on from the acute stage of the pandemic, violent and aggressive behaviour of pupils has significantly increased.”

McCready said NASUWT members have been punched, headbutted and spat at.

“That is degrading for teachers, as well as harmful,” he added.

He said: “The failure of the Scottish Government to meet its commitment to publish guidance for schools on the restraint of pupils and physical intervention is leaving teachers and their pupils more vulnerable to assaults and attacks.

“Teachers are currently having to step into situations and put themselves at considerable risk to keep people safe.”

The government says guidance was published in 2017.PA Media

Mike Corbett, the union’s Scotland national official, said: “Members report to us that levels of violence and serious disruption in schools have become more frequent since the pandemic.

“Yet the Scottish Government has still failed to meet its commitments to offer schools the vital guidance and support they need on pupil restraint.

“The fact that our members decided to bring a motion on this to our conference demonstrates just how vulnerable they are feeling and how frustrated they are at the continued delays by the Scottish Government.

“The Cabinet Secretary needs to now act swiftly to get this long-awaited guidance into schools along with the associated training and support for staff.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Restraint and seclusion in schools must only ever be used as a last resort to prevent the risk of harm and existing guidance on physical intervention and seclusion, published in 2017, remains in place.

“We consulted on a draft of our new human rights-based guidance in 2022. We are committed to publishing final guidance as soon as possible, with the physical intervention working group being reconvened to make amendments to the guidance ahead of its publication.

“In addition, the Scottish Government is currently exploring options for strengthening the legal framework in this area, including the option of statutory guidance.”

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