The National Autistic Society (NAS) has warned the government its plans to reform guidelines for teachers over the use of restraint for pupils could put children with autism and other special educational needs (SEN) and teachers at risk of harm.
In a recent speech at the Durand Academy, a primary school in London, education secretary Michael Gove said that; “schools should not have a no-touch policy and it is right to intervene physically to maintain order. Or indeed to comfort a child in distress.” Gove also announced that the requirement for teachers to record the details of every instance they have to physically restrain children – which was set to take effect this month – has been scrapped.
However, Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, is concerned by this move and warned that restraining pupils with autism and other SEN is a specialist skill. “If they are restrained improperly it could result in children becoming extremely distressed, frightened and even injured – exacerbating problems further,” he said. “The idea that teachers could restrain pupils and not record the incident is extremely worrying and could put both children and teachers at risk. “A lack of understanding and support at school can cause children with autism great anxiety and lead to behaviour that may be difficult to manage. A recent survey by the NAS found that 43% of young people with autism feel their teachers don’t know enough about autism. Rather than focusing on the punishment and restraint of these ‘unruly’ pupils, Gove should be working with schools to put measures in to support children with autism and prevent situations from escalating. “Restraint should only ever be used as a very last resort and every school must have staff properly trained in how to restrain pupils safely. If not, they risk putting children under increased stress and anxiety, which could have a devastating effect.”