Throwing cold water over bucket idea

25th September 1998 at 01:00
As the headteacher of a school for pupils with complex learning difficulties - some of whom have challenging behaviours - I warmly welcomed the Department for Education and Employment Circular and The TES's subsequent feature "Force factor" (September 11).

Working with pupils who occasionally require some form of restraint is stressful for all concerned and demands the highest level of professionalism from staff. This has to be based on carefully devised policies and procedures, and the necessary training. Your feature touched on many of these issues.

I would, however, like to challenge one of the recommendations from the "experts" within the Suzy Lamplugh Trust that was given under the title:

"Advice you can trust".

The idea that one can use surprise or noise to distract an aggressor is sound, but surely teachers should not be encouraged to contemplate throwing buckets of cold water over pupils under any circumstances? I would be interested as to whether this could be considered as an act of assault against a child, but even if it is not, I am sure that it would far from defuse the situation.

The questions and concerns raised by this suggestion are considerable. Where do we get the bucket of water? Are teachers to be issued with one at the start of the day and, if so, does that fit in with health and safety in schools? What would the school do with the dripping child after the incident, as he or she could not be expected to return to class in wet clothes?

I am sure many parents would be more than a little concerned to discover that a teacher had soaked their child during the day as a way to end an incident. It would not surprise me if some parents wanted to have more than a word or two with the teacher in question. What then, maybe a larger bucket?

Throwing water over a child would only humiliate them. It is better to try to resolve incidents without anyone losing their dignity.

As incidents of challenging behaviours and reported assaults in schools continue to increase, it is vital that the DFEE, local education authorities, school governors and the teaching profession become more aware of all of the issues concerned.

Teachers must be skilful and trained in defusing and avoidance techniques, and if necessary how physically to intervene in an appropriate manner.

Restraint may be a necessary last resort, and one that teachers will try to avoid, but I'm afraid that buckets of water are not a professional or credible alternative.

Andre Baird Headteacher Foxfield School Moreton Wirral

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