Written answers

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Department of Education and Skills

Schools Health and Safety

Photo of Pat CaseyPat Casey (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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193. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the development of guidelines for schools on the specific issue of restraint or seclusion in educational settings; and the current rules in relation to the matter. [9284/19]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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The Board of Management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all of the pupils in their school. Schools should supervise and support children who are distressed or out of control until they have recovered and are able to re-engage in the classroom. In some circumstances this may mean the temporary removal of a child from the environment where the problems have arisen. Schools are not required to report on such interventions.

Schools owe a duty of care to all their students and any action taken in relation to managing behaviour must be proportionate.

Tusla's Educational Welfare Service, under the aegis of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has published guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour which all schools are required by law to have in place. The guidelines advise that specialised behaviour management strategies, such as the use of restraint, should not be used without expert advice, training and monitoring. In particular, the guidelines point to certain sanctions which are regarded as inappropriate, including leaving a student in an unsupervised situation while in the care of the school. All parents must be made aware of behaviour management strategies employed by the school.

Schools may seek advice from their local National Educational Psychological Services psychologist, from the NCSE’s Support Service which includes Special Educational Needs Organisers, the National Behavioural Support Service and the Special Education Support Service, as to how children with behavioural needs can best be supported in school.

A range of guidance is available for schools in relation to the management of student behaviour. The Department published Guidelines for Supporting Pupils with Behavioural, Emotional, and Social Difficulties, which is available on the Department’s website, www.education.ie. The National Educational Psychological Services document Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties – A Continuum of Support also provides advice for teachers, including some advice on the use of “time out” procedures in the classroom.

Training is available for schools in relation to the provision of support for children with special educational needs from the NCSE’s Regional Service. The Special Education Support Service can, as part of their designated training modules, provide guidance for schools in relation to the management of difficult behaviour.

The NCSE’s Policy Advice Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2015) recommended that the Department of Education & Skills develop guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of crisis student behaviour situations in schools.

Having considered the matter, my Department has undertaken to develop new guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of challenging behaviours (including the use of physical interventions) where such behaviour is considered as likely to present serious risk of physical harm to the student concerned and/or others within the school environment.

A Working Group has been established to develop the guidelines and work is ongoing in this regard. The Department will engage with education partners on the guidelines in the coming months.

It is anticipated that the guidelines will be finalised by the end of this school year.

The guidelines will be underpinned by the principles that such intervention is never used for the purposes of discipline; that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to de-escalate the situation. The guidelines will also underline the importance of continued supervision of children during a crisis period including matters related to behaviour. It is also expected that the guidelines will underline the importance of recording such incidents and how they are managed.

The guidelines will apply to all recognised schools. They will place a strong focus on prevention and early intervention strategies for the management of crisis student behaviour in which physical intervention may be employed only as the last part of a comprehensive, positive and planned behavioural approach by the school. Implementation of the guidelines will be supported through the provision of information and training supports.

The guidelines will be informed by the evidence which shows that whole school positive behavioural approaches and early and ongoing engagement with the school community, including parents, are necessary for the development of effective school policy and practice.


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