Statement re Miramar seclusion complaint

Acting Secretary of Education Katrina Casey is apologising to parents for the Ministry’s handling of the complaint about the use of seclusion at Miramar Central School.

“It is clear that the Ministry didn’t act with the urgency it should have to stop the use of seclusion. Children’s wellbeing must be at the forefront of everything we do and we will work with schools and their communities to ensure we all get this right.

“We have also apologised to Minister Parata for the handling of the complaint and for a delay in informing her that the investigation had been completed, ” Ms Casey says.

The Ministry’s investigation into Miramar Central School has shown the use of seclusion went well beyond the management of extreme situations – in some cases it was used as a more routine behaviour management practice.

“With that in mind we have implemented a series of actions to improve Miramar Central’s performance in all future dealings with challenging behaviour”.

Action Plan highlights: ·

  • Seclusion at the school has ended. ·
  • The Ministry has installed staff onsite to review all behaviour management plans. ·
  • Parents will now be asked to sign off on their children’s behaviour management plans.
  • New Zealand Schools Trustees Association is also working with the Board to provide guidance.
  • Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) will now also be implemented into the school. ·
  • A Project Manager will oversee the action plan and be accountable to ensure change.

This Action Plan is of the same level as a statutory intervention, but because of the Miramar Central’s level of co-operation it has been decided that a more formal statutory intervention will not be required.

Elsewhere the Ministry is currently prioritising the identification of all other schools that have used seclusion rooms in the last 12 months. It is making it clear that they must stop using the rooms immediately and we will work with them to ensure they have other techniques to manage extreme behaviour.

While this process is underway we won't be releasing the names of the individual schools identified. These schools will need to talk to their parents and communities and will be encouraged to do this as soon as possible.

All schools need to understand seclusion is unacceptable. This case highlights that we should have acted much more decisively when we first received the complaint about the use of seclusion at Miramar.

We know that there are health and safety risks around putting a child in a locked room. When a child is exhibiting extreme behaviour there are sometimes also health and safety risks to the child and other people. We are investigating the regulatory and legislative implications of all this, as well as other potential legal matters this issue may surface and we will be reporting to Minister Parata on this.

The Education Review Office advises that it always ask schools about their strategies to address the needs of children with special needs, and observe teachers and children in special needs units as part of their evaluation process. ERO has now sharpened its focus on how schools manage individual children with extreme behaviour issues.

Detailed guidance to schools about alternatives to seclusion and how to manage challenging behaviour will be issued in the next few weeks. The Special Education Principals’ Association (SEPANZ) is working with the Ministry to support special schools to adopt the guidelines.

Timeline for handling complaint on Miramar Central School

25 July 2016 - Copy of parent complaint to the Board of Miramar Central School received by the Ministry.

26 July 2016 - Ministry speaks with the Principal agreed with the school to commission an independent investigation of the complaint. We advised the school to stop using the seclusion room. The principal agreed to stop using the room for the complainant’s child, but said it would need more support to stop using it completely. We agreed to revisit the issue once the investigation was complete.

27 July 2016 - Ministry appoints independent investigator

28th of July 2016 - Minister Parata is informed of the complaint received by the Ministry of Education and told that there will be an independent review of the ‘time out’ room.

26 August 2016 - Draft investigation report received by the Ministry on and shared with the school and the parent who complained; both were given two weeks to comment.

13 September 2016 - Final report was received by the Ministry.

22 September 2016 - Ministry meets with the school and advises the school to stop using the seclusion room. School agreed to stop using the room completely, which included removing the door to the room. Ministry agreed to provide an educational psychologist to work with the school to implement new behaviour strategies for students and is ensuring all students have current behaviour support plans which have involved their parents. Ministry staff member is also on-site at all times. School has also agreed to adopt the Positive Behaviour 4 Learning School-wide programme, starting in the new 2017 school year.

7 October 2016 – Minister Parata advised of a media query about the investigation. The Ministry then supplied the Minister with the report the following Thursday.

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