'Dangerous and unfair': Teaching union condemns Scottish Government over delays to guidelines on restraining pupils

NASUWT officials said new rules were supposed to be in place last year

The safety and careers of teachers are being put at risk as a result of the Scottish Government’s failure to publish new guidance on restraining pupils, a trade union has warned.

The NASUWT highlighted an ongoing Government delay to the finalisation of updated rules, and claimed schools have been left unsure of how to handle situations where a teacher has to decide whether to intervene to physically restrain a pupil.

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The teaching union, which holds its annual conference in Harrogate today, said teachers were often having to put their safety and careers on the line, but without the “backing, training and advice they need”.

Student Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe StockStudent Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe Stock
Student Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom. Picture: Adobe Stock

The criticism comes amid ongoing concerns about the level of violence in Scotland’s schools, with the union’s latest data showing that nearly four in 10 teachers reported experiencing violence or physical abuse from pupils in the previous 12 months.

A total of 93 per cent said the number of pupils exhibiting physically violent and abusive behaviours had increased in the last year.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “This much need guidance has been in the pipeline since 2020, yet four years later still nothing has materialised while teachers are experiencing increasing levels of serious disruption and violence in their schools.

“Every day teachers across Scotland are faced with situations where they feel they have to intervene to physically restrain a pupil to try to prevent them hurting themselves or others. They are stepping in at considerable risk to themselves and we regularly deal with casework where teachers have either been injured or been the subject of disciplinary action or allegations stemming from an intervention.

Teachers are being expected to put their safety and sometimes, their careers, on the line to keep their pupils safe, but they are doing so without the backing, training and advice they need and have a right to expect.

The Government established a working group to develop new guidance following concerns raised about the use of restraint and seclusion in schools in a 2018 report.

A consultation was held on draft guidance in 2022, but Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said in September last year that the Government was still “carefully considering all responses received on this sensitive topic and a consultation analysis report is being prepared for my consideration by education officials”.

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Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland National Official, said there is currently “a patchwork of local policies and advice which frequently contradict one another”.

He added: "On a matter where the safety of children and school staff is on the line this is dangerous and unfair.”

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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