Retrained to restrain;Talkback

25th June 1999 at 01:00
So there I was in the school corridor, faced by a very angry six footer. I could tell he was angry because he was starting to turn green and split out of his clothes. Actually, he wasn't angry with me so much as the lad who had just thrown a can of drink over him and who was behind me, looking as though he wanted to get past to engage in battle.

I was desperately trying to remember the "Control and Restraint" course we had done as part of INSET. But in that school corridor I realised the limitations of my training. I was non-threatening and kept my distance. I tried to reason with him. "Put the chair down before someone gets hurt." Trouble was, it was looking increasingly like it was going to be me that got hurt.

Then it was over in a flash. We fell on the floor in a heap and I held him "in a firm and caring way". It wasn't quite how we did it on the course, but no one got hurt and we apologised to each other later.

This was a rare event, but there has been an increase in the level of violence towards teachers and pupils from both other children and their parents. I remember discussions in staff meetings about whether we should be learning how to physically restrain children: "That's not what we're here for", "we have the skills to avoid a confrontation reaching that point", "what about the Children Act?" I think that teachers should consider it a necessary part of their training. We didn't take up teaching to get into physical situations, but it is becoming part of the job for more of us. We must be prepared.

Keith Blundell teaches in a secondary school in Bristol

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