Skip to main content
FREW Consultants Group        
Monday, November 16 2020

Dealing with Touching and Restraint

Every teacher will one day be confronted with a student, or students whose behaviour is so uncontrolled it will pose a threat to themselves, others around them or the school equipment.  In some cases, physical intervention becomes the only response open to the teacher.  This professional obligation to keep everyone safe has always raised deep concerns for teachers.  These concerns are based on the fear of being accused of assaulting the child both physically and sexually.  The latter category, sexual assault is particularly problematic and is often cited as the reason for such a shortage of male teachers in the infant and primary aged schools.


Of course, this abuse does exist and is not to be tolerated on any level but the fear of a false or malicious allegation is difficult to defend and many teachers, especially males refuse to touch students for any reason.  This fear should not be taken lightly but there are times when it is appropriate to touch a student.  Remember it is not illegal to touch a pupil and there are occasions when physical contact, including reasonable force, with a pupil is proper and necessary.  Examples of where touching a pupil might be proper or necessary:

      • Holding the hand of the child at the front/back of the line when going to assembly or when walking together around the school;
      • When comforting a distressed pupil;
      • When a pupil is being congratulated or praised;
      • To demonstrate how to use a musical instrument;
      • To demonstrate exercises or techniques during PE lessons or sports coaching; and
      • To give first aid.

Physical Restraint
Physical restraint means the use of physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue movement of a student’s body or part of their body. Students are not free to move away when they are being physically restrained.  Physical restraint should only be used when it is immediately required to protect the safety of the student or any other person. In some limited circumstances, it may also be necessary to restrain a student from imminent dangerous behaviours by secluding them in an area where such action is immediately required to protect the safety of the student or any other person.

The use of restraint should only ever used as a ‘last resort’ intervention when all other techniques have failed or the situation is immediate and dangerous and is necessary to keep everyone safe.

Situations that may require physical intervention include:

  • students threatening other students or staff
  • students putting their own safety at risk
  • fights between students
  • students attempting to leave the school premises without authorisation and in circumstances that put their safety at risk
  • students attempting to leave the premises in a heightened state of anxiety, where they may be unable to recognise risks to their safety.

There needs to be a ‘age appropriate’ consideration to be applied.  Fights between late secondary age students may pose a very real danger for the teacher.  Every attempt should be made to defuse the altercation without direct physical intervention but the only course of action is to make sure other students are safe. 

Restraint should not be used as a routine behaviour management technique, to punish or discipline a student or to respond to:

  • a student’s refusal to comply with a direction, unless that refusal to comply creates an imminent risk to the safety of the student or another person
  • a student leaving the classroom/school without permission, unless that conduct causes an imminent risk to the safety of the student or another person
  • verbal threats of harm from a student, except where there is a reasonable belief that the threat will be immediately enacted
  • property destruction caused by the student unless that destruction is placing any person at immediate risk of harm

Types of physical restraint which must not be used include:

  • any restraint which covers the student's mouth or nose, and in any way restricts breathing
  • the application of pressure to a student's neck, chest, abdomen, joints or pressure points to cause pain or which involves the hyperextension of joints
  • holding a student's head forward, headlocks, choke holds
  • take-downs which allow students to free-fall to the ground whether or not in a prone or supine position or otherwise
  • wrestling holds (including 'full or half nelsons'), using a hog-tied position or straddling any part of a student's body
  • basket holds, bear hugs, 'therapeutic holding'

When applying physical restraint in the limited circumstances set out above, staff must:

  • use the minimum force required to avoid the dangerous behaviour or risk of harm
  • only restrain the student for the minimum duration required and stop restraining the student once the danger has passed
  • The decision about whether to use physical restraint or seclusion rests with the professional judgment of the staff member/s involved, who will need to take-into-account both their duty of care to their students, their right to protect themselves from harm and obligations under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.  

Staff should ensure the type of restraint used is consistent with a student’s individual needs and circumstances, including:

  • the age/size of the student
  • gender of the student
  • any impairment of the student e.g. physical, intellectual, neurological, behavioural, sensory (visual or hearing), or communication
  • any mental or psychological conditions of the student, including any experience of trauma
  • any other medical conditions of the student
  • the likely response of the student
  • the environment in which the restraint is taking place

At all times the staff should monitor the student for any indicators or distress. Staff should talk to the student throughout the incident, making it clear to the student why the physical restraint is being applied.  Staff should also calmly explain that the physical restraint will stop once it is no longer necessary to protect the student and/or others. 

The staff member(s) involved in the incident must immediately notify the principal of the incident.

A written record of the incident should be kept and should include:

  • the name of the student/s and staff member/s involved
  • date, time and location of the incident
  • names of witnesses (staff and other students)
  • what exactly happened, for example, a brief factual account
  • any action taken to de-escalate the situation
  • why physical intervention was used (if applicable)
  • the nature of any physical intervention used
  • how long the physical intervention lasted
  • names of witnesses (staff and other students)
  •  the student’s response and the outcome of the incident
  • any injuries or damage to property
  • immediate post incident actions, such as first aid or contact with emergency services
  • details of contact with the student’s parent/carer
  • details of any post-incident support provided or organised.

Staff Training

  • Schools need to take their own decisions about staff training. The headteacher should consider whether members of staff require any additional training to enable them to carry out their responsibilities and should consider the needs of the pupils when doing so.
  • Some local authorities provide advice and guidance to help schools to develop an appropriate training program.

Much of the content of this Newsletter has been taken from school systems across the western world in order to provide a common-sense approach to physical touching particularly restraint.  However, it is important that that all schools know the formal policies of the Departments who employ them.  These guidelines define the limits of the intervention and the responsibilities all members of the organisation.

Posted by: AT 08:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 09 2020


Designing a Correction Plan

In the previous Newsletter (3rd November 2020) we discussed the need to teach in a calm environment.  There are four fundamental components in our model of a Learning Environment and these are pedagogy, structure, expectations and of course, relationships.  These have been discussed extensively in previous Newsletters and underpin all our work. 


The critical component for the child is the expectations presumed for the lesson and the assumed behaviour the teacher expects.  The expectation covers all aspects required including explicit demands of the child, the contents of the lesson, the equipment, time considerations and the like.  These are the ‘learning instructions’ if you like.  They also cover those implicit expectations, the social interactions in the classroom.  As pointed out last week, this is where teachers can spend their time managing rather than teaching.


There are two ways to address any situation that is not meeting the expectations of the lesson and these are acknowledging when the child is meeting the objectives set or correcting their behaviour when they are not. 



It is probably impossible to maintain a balance between expectations, acknowledging and correcting strategies all of the time; it is a moving point.  However, when there is a prolonged imbalance between expectations, acknowledgement and correction and one begins to dominate your management style you lose your effectiveness.  The following are three typical imbalances which increase the likelihood of teachers spending too much time managing and too little time teaching.


Unclear Expectations

This is when the teacher gives inadequate information about his or her expectations (as indicated by the broken line around the triangle). This is problematic because students will be unsure about the limits and boundaries of the classroom and what tasks they need to be doing.




Too Much Acknowledgement

This is problematic because students are not being corrected appropriately.  This is often the result of teachers trying to manage through friendliness.  They believe “If I am nice to the students they will like me and behave themselves”.  This imbalance may also arise when the teacher lacks assertiveness.


Too Much Correction

Students become resentful and continue to act inappropriately due to a lack of acknowledgement and encouragement. In this imbalance a teacher may not intend to be negative, but has developed the habit of only attending to inappropriate behaviour. In most cases where a whole class behaves inappropriately, this is the evident imbalance.

This imbalance creates problems because the teacher provides corrective feedback when students are disrupting, but fails to acknowledge students when they are on-task.  Overcorrection is typical in such cases.

This can trigger a “disruption, correction and resentment” cycle that has the potential to seriously damage working relationships between teacher and students.

This is arguably the most common and, therefore, the most problematic of the behaviour management imbalances.

In this model the amount of acknowledgement is critical.  Using praise is hazardous unless it is used appropriately, that is strategically (see Newsletter ‘The Danger of Praise’ 12th August 2018).  


On the other hand, the language of correction is not easy, students who have a history of abuse are hypersensitive to criticism and pointing out their faults reinforces their lack of self-worth.   This occurs when:

  • Correction is not given at the appropriate time – the closer you provide feedback for any behaviour the more effective it becomes  
  • Correction is given with emotional engagement – this personalises the feedback; it should always be just about the behaviour
  • Corrective responses are often unconsidered reflex reactions
  • Over correction is harsher than necessary – it personally confronts the child
  • It is delivered in a sarcastic manner


Final Tips

  1. Consider the following tactics when providing feedback to the students:
    Less is more – even if the class is really out of control don’t try to correct everything at once.  Pick out one or two problems that you need to or can correct quickly and when you have achieved this move on to the next problem.
  2. The certainty that you follow through has more impact than the severity of the corrective response.
  3. If possible, correct the child in private, that allows him/her to maintain their dignity.
  4. Displays of your adult power will only be effective in the short term.  Eventually they will challenge your authority and if your practice is not underpinned by an acknowledged management plan your will have nowhere to go.
  5. Taking the moral ‘high-ground’ might make you feel good but this is not a competition, you don’t need to be ‘better than’ a child who has a history of abuse or neglect.  Remember, you are their teacher and you need to create a professional relationship with the child.
  6. Some teachers get some self-satisfaction from correcting others, this is a covert form of the previous point.  The kids will soon get sick of this and disengage from the lesson resulting in disruptive behaviour.


Over time, effective classroom management that promotes cooperation will initially increase rate of acknowledgement with a corresponding decrease in the correction rate.  This reflects an imbalance but under these conditions there is no need to find little things to correct to regain balance.  In optimal conditions the students embrace their learning and the need to acknowledge is dissipated so balance is maintained with very little management.

Posted by: AT 11:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 02 2020

Creating a Calm Environment

Applying the Techniques of Classroom Management to Teaching

The philosophy of our work is underpinned by the understanding of the neurological processes that drive the brain’s activity and that is to maintain a condition of homeostatic equilibrium a sense of calmness where the physical, social and intellectual needs are being satisfied – they are calm.  Children will prioritise their need to be physically and socially contented first as failure to do so presents a threat to their survival.  This means that to access the child’s cognitive, intellectual thoughts requires the satiation of those lower-order needs leaving the non-life-threatening drive to solve the problem of what is puzzling them; classroom motivation.


In the classroom it is predominantly social threats that will distract the student and these will be in the form of some sort of attack on the child’s security, either a threat to their safety or their being excluded from the group.  Social distraction is manifested in the form of overt or covert dysfunctional behaviour. 


A central competence teachers must possess is the management of these social threats, that is managing the behaviour in the classroom.  If this is not achieved then the effectiveness of any lesson presentation is seriously compromised.  This emphasis on classroom management is of critical importance in delivering lessons but is not afforded the significance it demands in teacher training.


Appropriate Teaching Responses to Managing Behaviour in the Classroom:

  • Understand the importance of a predictable, stable learning environment
  • Understand the effects of emotions;
  • Understand dysfunctional behaviour and emotions learned in early childhood will emerge in stressful situations
  • Understand students need to operate in a state of calm to learn; and
  • Being able to identify and respond to dysfunctional behaviours and emotions


The contents of this Newsletter are applied to all students and provides a ‘democratic’ template for the whole class however, they are of most use for those students who have suffered abuse and/or neglect who provide the highest demand for this management.  The key components for any effective learning environment are:

  1. The curriculum and the pedagogy of the lesson – the content of the lesson and how it is delivered
  2. Structure – this is the rules of the classroom, the establishment between actions and consequences, that is if a student does ‘X’ they will get the same consequence for their action as everyone else
  3. Expectations – this is the definition of just what is expected, the detailed description of the action
  4. Relationships – this is the establishment of supportive, professional boundaries between the student and the teacher.  This is managed by the teacher for the benefit of the student.  This paper does not directly refer to the formation of relationships but the behaviours described underpin their effectiveness.


Teachers only have a finite time with their class and the time spent dealing with students’ behaviours takes away from that available for teaching.  This explains why two of the top inhibitors to effective learning (according to Hattie) is the absence of disruptive students and the classroom environment, that is there is a minimal amount of time distracted from learning!  This time budget is illustrated below (This is taken from the work of Christine Richmond).


In very difficult classrooms a teacher may have to spend most of their time managing behaviour, they are minding the class while on the right most of their conversation is about teaching the lesson.  It’s not difficult to see why disruptive behaviour is such a drain of student learning.


The key to developing a calm environment is illustrated in the diagram below:

It is a mistake to assume the student knows what you expect