Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland’s schools: Commissioner publishes first investigation report

We have published  the report of our first formal investigation— into Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland’s Schools. We used the Commissioner’s legal powers to investigate this issue.

What restraint and seclusion are

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

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

 The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is clear that restraint and seclusion may violate children’s rights, including their right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, their right to respect for bodily integrity, and their right not to be deprived of their liberty.

What our investigation focused on

Our investigation has focused on the adequacy of local authority policies and procedures and on recording of incidents.

Local authorities were required to provide their policies on:

  • Physical intervention in schools (covering restraint and seclusion), and
  • Recording of physical interventions (if separate).

They were also required to provide evidence on the data they hold and what they do with it.

What happens now

The Commissioner has laid the report in the Scottish Parliament, and has made recommendations for the Scottish Government, local authorities,Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate. They are required to respond to the Commissioner in writing by the end of January 2019.

Our key recommendations are:

  • Local authorities should, as a matter of urgency, ensure that no restraint or seclusion takes place in the absence of clear consistent policies and procedures at local authority level to govern its use.
  • The Scottish Government should publish a rights-based national policy and guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools. Children and young people should be involved at all stages of this process to inform its development.
  • Local authorities should record all incidents of restraint and seclusion in schools on a standardised national form. Anonymised statistical data should be reported to the Scottish Government’s Children and Families Directorate.
  • Local authorities should ensure that all recording forms at school level include sections for de-escalation techniques considered and attempted, the child’s and parents and carers views.
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