The Ministry of Education released documents on minimising the use of physical restraint for public consultation on 23 November 2021. Submissions close on 31 March 2022.

Since the physical restraint framework was first introduced in 2017, members of the profession have told us they felt the Guidelines lacked the clarity and guidance needed to provide confidence about how and when to safely apply physical restraint.

The Education and Training Act 2020, introduced in August 2020, made some changes to the physical restraint framework. The Guidelines for Registered Schools in New Zealand on the Use of Physical Restraint issued in August 2017 need updating to reflect those changes.

The Ministry of Education established a Physical Restraint Advisory Group (PRAG) in 2020 to help refresh the Rules and Guidelines under the new legislation.

These draft Rules and Guidelines provide an important opportunity for the profession to provide feedback on whether the new guidance material provides the clarity being sought, and to suggest improvement so all members of the profession are confident about working safely within the framework.

The Governing Council will be making a submission. A major focus of that submission will be on ensuring that employers and tumuaki are provided with the resources needed to meet the requirements of the physical restraint framework.

We have previously acknowledged that creating guidelines and best practice examples to cover the wide range of fast-moving and fluid situations encountered in day-to-day teaching activities is a challenging task. Lots of constructive feedback is needed to make these guidelines as relevant and practical as possible. All kaiako and tumuaki are encouraged to review these documents, discuss them, and provide feedback.

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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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