Ministry response to Northland Age editorial 25 September
I would like to correct your editorial of 25 September ‘We Deserve Better’, regarding the guidelines for teachers using restraint in classrooms.
The Ministry of Education does not prohibit teachers from physically restraining children who are behaving dangerously in school.
Sometimes things risk getting out of control in a classroom. I think everyone would agree it is better to prevent dangerous situations developing or using de-escalation techniques to calm things down, but that’s not always possible.
Sometimes, someone, usually the teacher, needs to step in. In a serious situation, that might involve physically restraining the child.
We have always recognised teachers need assistance and support to deal with these situations. To that end we worked with school leaders and representatives to develop the guidelines which help them understand when it is ok to use physical restraint, how to do so in a way that is safe for them and for the child, and what other techniques they could use when physical restraint is not appropriate.
It is important to note the guidelines recognise teachers should use their professional judgement to decide how to manage challenging behaviour.
The guidelines were written to protect and support our children – children with challenging behaviour, as well as their classmates – and also to support and protect our teachers.
While we worked with professional leaders to develop the guidelines, we understood that making these as clear and helpful as possible would also require some time being tested in schools. So we’ve always planned to listen and take on board the feedback and experiences of the people who are using them. A year after introducing the guidelines that’s exactly what we’re doing - we have asked those professional leaders back to review the guidelines and explore any changes to them that may be needed.
The Physical Restraint Advisory Group includes representatives of the NZ Principals’ Federation, NZ School Trustees Association, Secondary Principals’ Association NZ, Te akatea NZ Maori Principals’ Association, Special Education Principals’ Association of NZ, NZ Area Schools Association, NZEI Te Riu Roa, and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association the Education Council, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and the Ministry of Health. The Group met again recently, and there will be more meetings to discuss possible clarifications to the guidelines, as well as a wider opportunity for parents and others to provide feedback.
The representatives on this group are people who know how challenging it can be in classrooms and who have the wisdom and experience to advise on what can be done to assist teachers in these challenging situations.
We appreciate the time these leaders are putting in to ensure teachers have the clearest advice and the best support available in these challenging situations, and that the wellbeing of all of our children and school staff is paramount.
This is important work. Our children deserve the best. Our teachers deserve the best support we can give them.
Dr David Wales
National Director Learning Support
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