Teachers can use force to keep pupils safe, says Balls

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Indy Politics

Unruly pupils who seriously disrupt lessons and school activities or refuse to leave class should be controlled by force, new Government guidance for teachers suggests.

It says schools do not need parents' consent to physically control and restrain youngsters who are seriously misbehaving.

Guidance published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) today sets out for teachers when they can reasonably physically intervene to stop bad behaviour.

It says teachers can act when pupils are fighting and could hurt each other; a pupil attacks a teacher or another student; if a pupil deliberately damages property; continually refuses to follow instructions to leave a class; or seriously disrupts a lesson or school activity - like sports day or a class trip.

It also says teachers can restrain youngsters who are hurting, or at risk of hurting, someone by accident, or if a pupil absconds from class, or detention - if that would put the pupil in danger or disrupt classes.

Setting out dos and don'ts for teachers, it says "passive physical contact" - such as standing between pupils or blocking their path - is acceptable, as is ushering a pupil away by putting a hand on their back.

Teachers can also use restrictive "holds" on pupils in "extreme" circumstances - such as if students refuse to stop fighting.

But using moves like the "nose distraction technique" - a sharp jab under the nose - are unacceptable, it says.

The guide also warns teachers against the "seated double embrace" - where two members of staff force a pupil into a sitting position and lean them forward, while a third takes care of the head - and the "double basket-hold", which involves holding a student's arms across their chest.

While schools do not need parental consent to restrain pupils, the guidance does say that parents, pupils and others should be consulted about the school's policy on use of force.

Childrens' Secretary Ed Balls was publishing the guide at the NASUWT's annual conference in Birmingham today.

He said the idea that schools should have "no contact" policies with pupils was simply a myth.

Speaking on Sky News earlier, he said: "We are issuing new guidance today to make things really clear. Sometimes there is a myth that the right policy is to have no contact at all, but that is ridiculous.

"If there is a fight going on, if teachers are worried about children being unsafe, if there is a pupil in their classroom who is refusing to leave, then the law is very clear - that teachers can use force in order to make sure there is proper discipline.

"What you can't do is use force to punish children. We don't allow children to be hit, to hurt them for punishment, but if teachers need to use force to keep things safe and discipline in the classroom, then they can, they should, and, to be honest, they do every day."

The guide comes just days after schools were told they must take parents of persistently naughty children to court.

Ministers said they want headteachers to make use of parenting orders - which can force parents to make their children behave, or face fines of up to £1,000.

Last week, a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found teachers believed behaviour in schools was worse now than five years ago, with pupils as young as five being disrespectful, intimidating and violent.

Mr Balls will also tell delegates schools will be forced to bear the brunt of Government spending cuts if the Tories win power at the general election.

He will claim a Conservative government would be forced to cut teacher numbers and raise class sizes to pay for its promised cut in National Insurance (NI) contributions.

His attack comes as the Tories' commitment to reverse part of the Government's planned NI increase - due to come into effect next April - has emerged as one of the key battlegrounds in the forthcoming general election.

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