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The use of force, including restraint and the restriction of liberty, in education settings


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Title: The use of force, including restraint and the restriction of liberty, in education settings

The use of force, including restraint and the
restriction of liberty, in education settings
  • HMI April 2013

Reasons for this training
  • There is an increasing number of complaints about
    potentially inappropriate use of force and
    restraint including restriction of liberty within
    education settings.
  • The session aims to increase your confidence and
    knowledge about the difference between what is
    acceptable force and what is unacceptable in a
    variety of situations.
  • The session aims to ensure inspectors have a
    better understanding about when they need to make
    a judgement and report on the use of force within
    education settings and also when to refer issues
    to the Compliance, investigation and enforcement
    team (CIE).

The Use of Reasonable Force Advice for
headteachers, staff and governing bodies
  • Non-statutory guidance, DfE (2012)
  • What is reasonable force?
  • Force is usually used either to control or
    restrain - ranging from guiding a pupil to safety
    by the arm to break up a fight or where a student
    needs to be restrained to prevent violence or
  • Reasonable in the circumstances means using no
    more force than is needed.
  • Control means either passive physical contact,
    e.g. standing between pupils or blocking a
    pupil's path, or active physical contact such as
    leading a pupil by the arm out of a classroom.
  • Restraint means to hold back physically or to
    bring a pupil under control.
  • School staff should always try to avoid acting in
    a way that might cause injury, but in extreme
    cases it may not always be possible to avoid
    injuring the pupil.

When can reasonable force be used in schools?
  • To prevent pupils from hurting themselves or
    others, from damaging property, or from causing
  • Whether or not to physically intervene is a
    professional judgement dependent on the
    individual circumstances.

When can reasonable force be used?
  • Examples include
  • removing disruptive children from the classroom
    where they have refused to follow an instruction
    to do so
  • preventing a pupil behaving in a way that
    disrupts a school event or a school trip or visit
  • preventing a pupil leaving the classroom where
    allowing the pupil to leave would risk their
    safety or lead to behaviour that disrupts the
    behaviour of others
  • preventing a pupil from attacking a member of
    staff or another pupil, or to stop a fight in the
  • restraining a pupil at risk of harming themselves
    through physical outbursts.

When can reasonable force be used in FE?
  • Members of staff in an institution which is
    within the further education sector may use force
    as is reasonable in the circumstances to prevent
    a student at the institution from doing or
    continuing to do any of the following
  • committing an offence
  • cause personal injury to, or damage to the
    property, of any person (including the student
  • prejudicing the maintenance of good order and
    discipline at the institution or among any of its
    students, whether during a teaching session or
  • This power may be exercised both on the
    institutions premises or elsewhere when the
    member of staff has lawful control or charge of
    the student.
  • The use force to control or restrain in further
    education settings
  • Joint publication DfES and AoC

When can reasonable force be used?
Discuss what evidence you would want to explore
to ensure the staff at the school or college had
a clear and consistent interpretation of
Unacceptable techniques
  • The following restraint techniques present
    unacceptable risk and must not be used
  • the double basket hold which involves holding a
    persons arms across their chest
  • the seated double embrace involves two members
    of staff forcing a person into a sitting position
    and leaning them forward, while a third monitors
    breathing and
  • the nose distraction technique which involves a
    sharp upward jab under the nose.

Other key points
  • There is no requirement to have a policy on the
    use of force but schools must have a behaviour
    policy. It is good practice for this to set out
    the schools approach to the use of force.
  • Schools should not have a no contact policy.
  • Any policy should acknowledge the schools legal
    duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled
    children and pupils with special educational

Other key points
  • Schools should decide whether any members of
    staff need additional training to carry out their
    responsibilities, taking account of the needs of
    its pupils.
  • Schools do not require parental consent to use
  • It is good practice for schools to speak to
    parents about serious incidents involving the use
    of force and to consider how best to record such
    serious incidents. It is up to schools to decide
    whether it is appropriate to report the use of
    force to parents.

Power to search pupils without consent
  • In addition to the general power to use
    reasonable force described above, head teachers
    and authorised staff can use such force as is
    reasonable given the circumstances to conduct a
    search for the following prohibited items
  • knives and weapons
  • alcohol
  • illegal drugs
  • stolen items
  • tobacco and cigarette papers
  • fireworks
  • pornographic images
  • any article that has been or is likely to be
    used to commit an offence, cause personal injury
    or damage to property.
  • Force cannot be used to search for items banned
    under the school rules.

Who can use reasonable force?
  • All members of school staff have a legal power to
    use reasonable force.
  • This includes any people whom the headteacher has
    temporarily put in charge of pupils such as
    unpaid volunteers or parents accompanying pupils
    on a school organised trip.
  • It is always unlawful to use force as a

  • Time-out - the restriction of access to all
    positive reinforcements as part of a planned and
    structured behavioural programme.
  • Withdrawal - the removal from a situation which
    causes anxiety or distress to a location where
    the pupil can be continuously observed and
    supported until ready to resume usual activities.
    The location may also be called a relaxation
  • Internal exclusion   The most common use in
    schools is to describe the removing a pupil from
    normal timetabled lessons and their placement in
    supervised education in a separate room,
    sometimes with a small number of other pupils. It
    can be an alternative to fixed term exclusion. It
    is sometimes mistakenly called seclusion but
    this means forcing a child to spend time alone
    against their will.


It is an offence to lock a person in a room
without a court order except in an emergency, for
example where the use of a locked room is a
temporary measure while seeking assistance.
Inspectors should consider
  • If the use of force was reasonable
  • If the use of force is part of a planned
    strategy, or a response to an emergency/safety
  • the extent to which the focus of the strategy is
    on the prevention of the need for the use of
  • the quality of the behaviour and risk assessment
    that takes into account the individual needs of
    the young person
  • the effectiveness of the strategy for example
    in terms of frequency and duration of use
  • the reasonableness of the use of force

  • Guidance on the use of restrictive interventions
  • for staff working with children and adults who
    display extreme behaviour in association with
    learning disability and/or autistic spectrum
    disorders (DfES 2002)
  • (also called Guidance for restrictive physical
  • How to provide safe services for people with
    learning disabilities and autistic spectrum
    disorders (DH 2002)
  • Wide ranging guidance including prevention and
    risk assessment, recording, post-incident
    management, staff training.
  • Page 5 provide a good outline of contents of

  • Guidance on the use of restrictive physical
    interventions for pupils with severe behavioural
    difficulties (DfES, 2003)
  • Guidelines to provide practical advice for local
    authorities and special schools on policies and
    risk assessment.

Reporting concerns
  • Inspectors must refer the information to Ofsteds
    compliance, investigation and enforcement (CIE)
    team if the settings approach to the management
    of children and young peoples behaviour is
    considered not to be appropriate, including the
    use of the unacceptable techniques, and may place
    them at risk. Social care inspectors must also
    inform their inspection team manager.
  • The CIE team may arrange for a case review to
    consider the risk to children and young people,
    and whether the setting is failing to safeguard
    and protect them from harm. The case review would
    consider the most appropriate next step to take,
    including whether the need to initiate child
    protection procedures.