Restraint guidance 'draconian'

12th March 2010 at 00:00
Children's Commissioner breaks ranks with teaching unions, branding schools document `overly punitive'

New guidelines for teachers on the use of force to restrain unruly pupils are "punitive", "draconian", and could set children's rights back by 20 years, claim campaigners.

The Children's Commissioner for Wales and charity SNAP Cymru have raised concerns over the Assembly government's Behaviour in Schools consultation document.

Teaching unions have generally welcomed the guidance, but campaigners say it would allow teachers to use force to restrain or control pupils for disciplinary purposes and to maintain order, which contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In his response to the consultation Keith Towler, the Children's Commissioner, said the document takes "an overly punitive approach to control and restraint in schools" that does not consider children's rights or take into account their views.

Denise Inger, chief executive of children's charity SNAP Cymru, shares Mr Towler's concerns.

She said: "I don't think we need such draconian methods. This would take the partnership between schools and their pupils back 20 years.

"The document only considers the views of professionals, not children."

Both parties are also surprised that the document makes no reference to the groundbreaking National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) from which it emanated.

Ken Reid, former deputy vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University and chair of NBAR, said he had not been consulted.

"There's been no contact with me and I have never seen the document," he said.

"I'm very surprised that NBAR wasn't referenced."

However, despite the concerns, teaching unions have generally welcomed the document.

David Evans, secretary of NUT Cymru, said: "It's an attempt to give us as clear guidance as possible as to what schools and teachers can and can't do when faced with these difficult circumstances.

"Force should only ever be used as a last resort and the guidance makes that clear."

An Assembly government spokesman said officials are aware of the Children's Commissioner's concerns and will be meeting with him.

The spokesman said: "The action plan responding to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review gave a commitment to produce new `Safe and Effective Intervention' guidance.

"The Review highlighted, in particular, the need for new guidance for schools on the use of force and restraint.

"We are currently analysing the responses to the consultation."

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