Advice on abuse bypasses teachers
Ministers are targeting the guidance at special schools, despite the fact that most children with emotional and behavioural difficulties attend mainstream schools - in line with their own policies on integration.
The Government has developed guidance on "handling strategies" which could help to protect teachers from false allegations of abuse. It recommends schools establish strict policies on how to deal with difficult pupils, develop strategies tailored to pupils' needs, and invest in good training for staff.
But the Association of Workers for Children with EBD says the main problem is in mainstream schools, where it would be impossible to train all staff who might deal with problem youngsters.
Association spokesman Allan Rimmer said: "The majority of children with difficult behaviour are in the mainstream. An awful lot of teachers who have not been trained are going to be teaching these children, and will therefore feel vulnerable.
"If I were a teacher, I would say I'm not going to engage with this child ... because I'm not trained to deal with them."
The second biggest teaching union, the NASUWT, is considering the advice. Assistant secretary Chris Keates said: "We are not convinced putting kids with EBD in mainstream is good idea, but we are even less convinced when we know the resources and training are not in place.
"Because of the risks you take as soon as you lay hands on pupils, of assault charges or child protection investigations, we advise members to use strategies that don't involve contact, particularly with violent and disruptive pupils."
However, the guidance was welcomed by John Bangs, assistant secretary at the National Union of Teachers, who said the Government had at last recognised the needs of EBD teachers. But he stressed the importance of appropriate training, which would include nominated senior staff in mainstream schools.
The advice says physical restraint should be a last resort and just one part of a wider behaviour management strategy.
Schools should take into account if pupils have been sexually abused. Certain restraint techniques could remind them of previous abuse and aggravate difficult situations, it warns.
It proposes setting up national accreditation of organisations that offer restraint training but this could take another two years.
"Promoting Positive Handling Strategies for Pupils with Severe Behavioural Difficulties", DFEE. Consultations close on July 7. Responses to Jean Macintyre, Area 2N, DFEE, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT (fax: 020 7925 6648)
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