Teachers allowed to use physical force

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Teachers can use physical force against pupils if they are fighting, refusing to leave a classroom or disrupting a school sporting event, government guidelines ruled yesterday.

The guidelines, published by the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, are an attempt to explode the "myth" that teachers cannot touch pupils. They also make it clear that teachers can use force without parental consent and aim to tackle the "fear factor" among teachers that they will face assault allegations from pupils if they intervene to prevent them fighting.

Teachers welcomed the guidance yesterday. Mike Grant, an assistant head teacher from north Lincolnshire who chairs the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers' legal committee, said: "What has happened in recent years is that teachers have been frightened off from doing anything."

"If an allegation of assault is made that is false, they can be suspended for a significant amount of time. Even when they are exonerated, they can find it difficult to go back to the classroom. Careers can be ruined."

The document makes it clear that schools should not adopt "no contact" policies, as some local authorities have unofficially advised.