Time to make our schools safe places for all

December 14, 2018 ENABLE Scotland Blog

Kayleigh Thorpe – ENABLE Scotland Head of Campaigns, Policy and Activism

Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner has published an important report on the use of restraint and seclusion in Scotland’s schools.

Restraint means holding a child or young person to stop them from moving.

Seclusion means shutting a child somewhere alone and not allowing them to leave.

The report, called No Safe Place, reveals that hundreds of children have been subjected to restraint and seclusion, but there are big variations in how local councils do this – and some councils practice this without having policies and guidance in place at all.

This issue has been highlighted by ENABLE Scotland’s membership, and the Families Committee of our Scottish Council has been very active in pressing for change.

In fact, our member Beth Morrison is a leading campaigner on this issue, having collected stories from around 400 families in Scotland whose children have experienced seclusion and restraint at school.

Beth has given a voice to those children, and her energy and determination over the last eight years is a big reason why the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has used his investigative powers for the first time ever to shine a light on this issue – and demand change.

Two years ago, ENABLE Scotland’s award-winning #IncludED in the Main?! report engaged more than 800 pupils, parents, teachers and school staff to identify what needed to change to make Scotland’s schools truly inclusive for every pupil who has a learning disability.

More training on learning disability and Positive Behaviour Support for teachers and other school staff was one of our report’s key recommendations, along with a call to reduce instances of pupils who have a learning disability being excluded from class time.

It’s impossible to read the Commissioner’s report today without being moved – and sometimes shocked – by the testimony of children and parents.

As the Commissioner highlights, there is a serious question of whether the human rights of children and young people are being violated in these instances.

The Scottish Government’s national guidance for schools and local authorities in preventing and managing school exclusions, called Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2, was published last June. The guidance set out a clear expectation that local authorities should have a policy on physical intervention, and that all cases should be properly recorded.

Today’s report reveals that almost half of local authorities (14 of 32) do not record all incidents of restraint and seclusion, and four do not record any incidents at all.

In fact, four local authorities do not even have policies and guidance in place to govern the use of restraint and seclusion.

This is not acceptable, and it is clearly time to take action.

We welcome the Commissioner’s 22 recommendations, and particularly echo his call for local authorities to ensure that no restraint or seclusion takes place in the absence of clear consistent policies and procedures to govern its use.

We also support his call for the Scottish Government to publish a rights-based national policy and guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools, and for all incidents of restraint and seclusion to be recorded and collected by the Scottish Government.

And we warmly welcome his call to ensure that children, young people and their parents and carers are more closely involved in designing processes and strategies; ensuring that teachers and other school staff are better trained and aware of the needs and behaviours of pupils who have learning disabilities.

By using his statutory investigative powers, the Commissioner has been able to shine a light on the real experience of too many school pupils who have learning disabilities. Requiring local authorities to share their data means we can now see the evidence that backs up what so many parents and carers have been saying for years, and the case for action is undeniable.

We urge the Scottish Government, local authorities, schools and teaching unions to work together with children, young people, parents, carers and organisations like ENABLE Scotland to ensure that our schools are truly inclusive places where every pupil is treated with dignity and respect.

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