Council | Matatū submission – substantial investment and sharing of burden needed

The Council | Matatū submission acknowledges the mahi of PRAG (Physical Restraint Advisory Group) – which we have had a representative on – and although we think there are many good proposals in the draft Rules and Guidelines, we do not support them as currently drafted. On their own, the rules and guidelines are not enough to achieve a step change and systemic shift to achieve greater equity and wellbeing for all learners |ākonga. We are recommending some changes, including that the rules and guidelines are implemented with a review period of two years. We do not believe they will be “right first time” and we need to commit now to iterate and improve. 

The Council | Matatū is concerned about the impact of lack of specialist resources on teachers and kaiako, and their ability to fulfil their role. We agree that physical restraint should always be a last resort, however, the practical reality of not having adequate specialised support that meets all needs is that there are more incidents and issues for a teacher or kaiako to manage that may lead to physical restraint being considered.

The draft rules and guidelines do not change the current reality – that teachers, kaiako, and the teaching profession are largely left on their own to bear the burden of responsibility for dealing with increasingly complex societal issues (e.g., learners | ākonga traumatised through family violence and poverty, or health conditions such as depression and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome). The practical realities of the profession mean teachers and kaiako need to consider the law, the rules and guidelines, and the Code | Ngā Tikanga Matatika and Standards | Ngā Paerewa when exercising their judgement in response to often fast-moving and complex situations. They are expected to engage in one-on-one de-escalation strategies while still being responsible for a large number of learners |ākonga, and to apply sound judgements based on assessments of learner |ākonga consent, the risk of imminent harm, including significant emotional distress, and awareness of the details of support plans that may apply. This burden of responsibility to assess, process and act upon complex situations, often occurring within mere seconds, impacts of the wellbeing | hauroa of teachers and kaiako. The teaching profession seeks the resourcing, support and engagement of all communities in building a society that has joint responsibility for the learning and growth of every learner, and that respects the mana, potential and rights of all. 

We believe the draft rules and guidelines continue to encourage a compliance approach, rather than building an integrated and sustained wellbeing or hauora approach that gives broader communities the skills and knowledge to support all learners | ākonga as they develop and grow as young people. We make some recommendations about flexibility in choosing to develop a learning support plan and the type of information collected for monitoring and reporting.

We believe significant investment is needed in designing, developing and continually growing a trauma-informed, mana-enhancing approach that can be applied to all learner environments, to remove the inequities associated with focussing on and negatively labelling individual learners | ākonga. We strongly support the training being kanohi ki te kanohi and ongoing, as we believe an online approach on its own will be ineffective for this mahi. We recommend all teachers and kaiako (including relievers) are trained, starting with a whole of school or kura approach to training where schools, kura and regions select teams who are fully trained in trauma-informed practice. We also recommend a kete of culturally appropriate relevant resources is developed to support school communities, teachers and kaiako, and a review of existing resources and programmes that no longer line up with the principles that underpin this mahi. We also believe substantial investment in training and resources that reflect the unique features of early childhood learning and development is urgently required for this sector.

The Governing Council acknowledges that the Draft Rules and Guidelines on the use of physical restraint at registered schools and kura in New Zealand contribute to a journey of minimising the use of physical restraint, but we are seeking a package of resources and a number of changes to make them workable on the ground and successful.


The full submission can be read here.


Differences between current Rules and draft Rules

The draft Rules include some new requirements that include:

  • the need for employers to ensure that kaiako identified as having a high likelihood of needing to use physical restraint, plus every authorised staff member who is not a teacher, are trained in appropriate physical holds by accredited physical restraint practitioners
  • a requirement that from 1 March 2023, teachers and authorised staff members have completed online modules on the content of the Guidelines, and that from 1 July 2024, teachers and authorised staff members are supported and trained in identifying stress triggers, understanding unmet needs and preventing, minimising and responding to student distress. The content of these training resources has yet to be developed.
  • putting support plans in place for certain ākonga, including those identified as having a high likelihood of being involved in a crisis situation where physical restraint may be used. If a support plan includes a section on use of physical restraint, then the parents/whānau/caregivers of the ākonga must provide informed consent.
  • giving parents/whānau/caregivers the opportunity to attend a debrief after an incident of physical restraint.

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Differences between current Guidelines and draft Guidelines

As required under the Act, the draft Guidelines place a greater focus on assessing behaviour escalation levels that precede imminent harm to health, safety or well-being. They aim to provide a framework for decision making and problem solving to prevent, de-escalate and safely respond to disruptive or assaultive behaviour.

The draft Guidelines include:

  • more information about what acceptable physical contact looks like and when it can be used. They also describe the links between the physical restraint framework and Our Code | Ngā Tikanga Matatika and Our Standards | Ngā Paerewa.
  • draft practical examples as a resource to help generate conversations within schools|kura to help create policies and procedures that support staff to prevent, de-escalate and manage situations where harm may be imminent. They aren’t intended to provide an exhaustive list of the scenarios that may be encountered or to provide a ‘right’ decision vs a ‘wrong’ decision.
  • a draft matrix that uses the concepts of ākonga willingness and imminent harm to help describe when acceptable physical contact may be used, when it is to be avoided, and when physical restraint may be justified as an option of last resort.

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