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Child safety and wellbeing at the heart of Teaching Council efforts around physical restraint rules

24 July 2020

Child wellbeing and safety is of paramount importance to teachers. 

To say otherwise is alarmist and a disservice to the more than 100,000 teachers who are caring for and nurturing our children and young people every day. 

All teachers are committed to the Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession which places responsibilities on them to protect the physical and emotional safety and wellbeing of all learners. 

The Teaching Council and teachers have always maintained physical restraint be used only as a last resort and to keep people safe from harm.   

Unfortunately, the reality is there are rare situations in school environments where physical restraint is required to prevent further harm. Having confusing rules and problematic legislation means teachers are afraid to get involved, which creates dangerous situations for all children. The confusion has also inhibited teachers from offering support to children in a distressed state.  

Physical force/restraint is not the use of violence towards children. To confound the two is a mistake. It is a physical intervention to prevent or minimise harm to children and young people. We advocated for this change to provide teachers with the confidence and clarity to intervene to keep children safe. In no way does the term suggest or intend teachers harm students – that is the antithesis of the role of a teacher. 

Physical restraint is not a disciplinary tool or a control tactic, and the Council is not advocating for it to be sanctioned into regular use. It is a last resort. Teachers need to be clear on when and how to use it to protect the safety of all children, including that of the child displaying violent behaviour.  

The Teaching Council has advocated for non-physical de-escalation techniques and preventative strategies to be recognised and included in the guidelines.  

We look forward to working with teachers, parent groups, the disability sector and others, such as Save the Children, to develop practical guidelines and training to help in decision-making and problem solving to prevent, de-escalate and safely respond to disruptive or assaultive behaviour.   

For more information or comment please contact Allison at Allison.hess@teachingcouncil.nz