Guide to a policy on the use of Reasonable Force
In accordance with the DENI Circular 1999/0 Victoria Park Primary School has established a Pastoral Care Policy towards the pupils in its charge. In addition it takes reasonable steps to safeguard the welfare of its staff and pupils by promoting good behaviour and discipline on the parts of its pupils.
The Education Order (NI) 1998 enables a member of staff to use reasonable force in the circumstances to prevent a pupils from:
- committing an offence
- causing personal injury to, or damage to the property of, any person or self or
- displaying behaviour, which is unacceptable to proper school discipline either in or out of class.
The right to use reasonable force to control or restrain a pupil applies:
- when a member of staff is on the school premises
- elsewhere when in charge of the pupil
- to all school staff with the authority of the principal. (volunteers would only be expected to alert the member of staff in charge).
Reasonable Force cannot be precisely defined but three areas should be considered before reasonable force is applied:
- the use of force is only reasonable when prevention of the incident cannot be resolved without force
- the degree of force must be in proportion to the circumstances of the incident
- the use of reasonable force must he in keeping with the physical strength of the pupil as defined by age, sex or disability of the child.
Predicting the Need for Reasonable Force
Initially it is assumed that all good behaviour management strategies have been exercised.
ln order that staff may make the correct decision at short notice the school will have considered, in advance, circumstances when they should and should not use reasonable force.
Staff will employ strategies, which have been given as guidance by the Belfast Education & Library Board.
Need for Reasonable Force
The use of reasonable force can be considered when:
- the school's behavioural management strategies have failed, when self-defence is necessary or when there is a risk of injury.
- when an imminent risk is predicted, when significant damage to property is likely
Examples of the above include: a pupil attacking a member of staff or other pupil, pupils are fighting, a pupil causing or at risk, injury or damage by accident, rough play or use of dangerous objects etc, running in an inappropriate situation, a pupil absconding especially from the school.
- were a pupil is compromising good order and discipline.
Examples of the above include a pupil persistently refuses to obey an order to leave the classroom, a pupil whose behaviour is seriously disrupting a lesson.
Conduct During the Application of Reasonable Force
Having, considered and applied all possible alternatives members of staff should:
- inform the pupil what action he/she will be taking
- continue by word and action to diffuse the situation
- secure the well-being of all other pupils, if necessary by removing them from the area
- send for assistance
Physical Intervention could include:
- standing between pupils
- blocking a pupil's pathway
- leading pupil by the arm
- shepherding pupil by placing hand in the centre of the back
- in extreme cases, using more restrictive force
Staff should never act in a way that might lead to injury of the pupil. It would be therefore unacceptable to hit, slap, punch, twist limbs, hold inappropriately, or throw an object as means or constraint. Avoidance or holding or touching indecently goes without saying.
Not all-possible situations can be included in any school policy.
However it is understood that all adults will act in good faith in cases of extreme emergency.
Teachers should use their professional training and judgments to when physical contact is appropriate such as in PE lessons when coaching techniques or consoling a pupil in distress.
Reporting of the Use of Reasonable Force
- the Principal, Vice-Principal or Senior Member of staff should immediately be informed
- school policies on recording incidents will apply and the appropriate report form should be completed when the situation has been diffused
- parent/guardian of the pupil should as soon as possible be contacted and informed of the incident
Record of the Use of Reasonable Force
The report on the use of Reasonable Force will contain:
- date of incident
- outline of events preceding incident
- outline of incident including reason for use of reasonable force
- action taken to subdue the incident and to support the staff/pupils involved etc.
- record of any injury/treatment
- names of other involved adults and
- signatures of reporting members or staff