Friday, December 14, 2018

School discipline

The “ungoverned” and potentially illegal use of restraint and seclusion is taking place across Scotland’s schools, according to the country’s children and young people’s commissioner.

The commissioner’s report reveals thousands of largely unmonitored incidents, glaring inconsistencies in policy between local authorities and significant concerns that the techniques are being used disproportionately on children with disabilities and additional support needs.

Challenging the Scottish government to turn its rhetoric on human rights into action, the commissioner, Bruce Adamson, called for all schools without adequate policies to stop using restraint and seclusion “as a matter of urgency” until national guidelines and standards were put in place.

Adamson told the Guardian: “We are deeply concerned that significant physical interventions may be taking place without any kind of policy or procedure at local authority level to ensure the lawful and rights-compliant treatment of children. We don’t have confidence in how many incidents of restraint and seclusion are taking place, which children are most affected or how they are being dealt with. We are also concerned that the Scottish government hasn’t done enough to provide clear direction to local authorities to make sure we have a consistent reporting across the country.”
The report – the first to use the office’s formal powers of investigation, and taking in all state primary and secondary schools in Scotland – was prompted by dozens of inquiries from parents and carers of children with disabilities and other additional support needs, raising concerns about the use of these techniques as a method of behaviour management. The investigation uncovered a chaotic picture across the country. Four out of 32 local authorities do not have policies on restraint and seclusion. Aberdeen city council presented no policy documents but reported that 60 techniques had been used to physically intervene with children. The investigation found a lack of consistent standards to define restraint and seclusion among those authorities that did provide policies, with only 18 stating that restraint should be used as a last resort when a child was in danger of harming themselves or others. Only 12 local authorities said children and young people’s rights and views had been taken into account when reviewing their guidelines.
For the purposes of the report, restraint was defined as “holding a child or young person to restrict their movement”, and seclusion as “the confinement of a child, without their consent, by shutting them alone in a room or other area which they are prevented from leaving”. This was distinct from a “time out”, defined as a behavioural intervention used as part of a structured support plan that did not necessarily involve being physically removed to a separate place.
The investigation found that the recording of incidents was similarly erratic: only 18 authorities were able to provide data, despite others claiming they recorded all incidents. These 18 authorities reported 2,674 incidents between them over the 2017-18 school year. Only 13 authorities recorded the number of children who were the subject of interventions, which came to 386 in total.
Adamson said restraint should be used only as an “absolute last resort”. He said: “We need to make sure that adults have the training to make sure they can support children, particularly those that need additional support, and not resort to restraint techniques. That rights-based approach is really missing and we need to send a message very clearly in terms of restraint.”

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