Minimising physical restraint in New Zealand schools and kura

The Ministry of Education is working to support schools and kura and kaiako (teachers) to understand and put into practice new rules and guidelines to minimise the use of physical restraint of ākonga (students).

These are in response to changes to the framework for using physical restraint in the Education and Training Act 2020 (legislation.govt.nz)(external link).

Why this mahi matters

Physical restraint is one of the more complex issues for school communities to navigate. Our ākonga are precious and kaiako want to do the right thing by them and their whānau. However, we know from research that physical restraint is a high-risk action that can emotionally and physically harm the ākonga being restrained, the staff member doing the restraining and witnesses. That makes finding the right balance of care, social and emotional learning, and safety for all ākonga and kaiako a worthy challenge. It’s not an easy balance to find. That’s why we’ve set up this programme of work. We’re working to support you as kura and kaiako to:

  • support your ākonga who are showing signs of distress
  • build the confidence of your staff in responding to distressing situations
  • reflect on how things are working for your school community
  • report the use of physical restraint to ensure you get the right support at the right time.

Where the new rules and guidelines are up to

We’ve published the findings from our consultation and engagement on the draft rules and guidelines.

Read the findings from our research [PDF, 6 MB] into what helps tamariki feel safe and included at school, and what supports tamariki when they’re upset and distressed.

Read the Word version of the full findings [DOCX, 2.8 MB] from our online consultation or the PDF version of the findings [PDF, 1.3 MB].

Read the summary [PDF, 355 KB] of the findings from our online consultation.

Translations of summary of findings from online consultation

Te Reo Māori [PDF, 348 KB]

We continue to work on translated and accessible formats and we will upload these as they become available. 

We’re using the feedback to clarify the rules and reshape the guidelines. We’ll also carry what we’ve heard into the planning for training for schools.

We’ll clarify in the final rules:

  • that school policies are to focus on reducing student distress and the use of physical restraint
  • that incidents of physical restraint can be reported to the Ministry using the new online form
  • when and how parents should be involved in debriefing after an incident of physical restraint.

We’ll reflect in the final guidelines:

  • a te ao Māori view of school as a place of shelter, with an integrated network of support to nurture ākonga potential
  • a strong focus on inclusive school cultures that promote wellbeing and minimise the need for physical restraint
  • broader definitions and examples of emotional distress
  • broader definitions of physical restraint as it relates to denying or removing mobility equipment and communication devices
  • a format that is less complex and more practical and readable.

What this means for kura

When the new Rules and Guidelines come into effect this means: 

  • the 2017 Physical Restraint Rules and Guidelines will be superseded by the new Rules and Guidelines  
  • there will be some changes that you will need to familiarise yourself with
  • we will support you to understand what these changes mean for you and your staff.

What’s coming up 

What 

When 

Consider the feedback from consultation and engagement, and update the rules and guidelines based on the feedback 

October 2022 

Gazette the new rules and guidelines – this means the new rules and guidelines legally come into effect 

February 2023 

Socialise the new rules and guidelines to ensure everyone understands their obligations and what this means for them 

February 2023 

Support kura to implement the rules and guidelines. See training and reporting sections for more information 

From February 2023 

Where the reporting of incidents mahi is up to

We’ve reviewed the process for reporting incidents of physical restraint and have developed and piloted a new fully automated incident reporting system. This was rolled out in August 2022.

We have developed some training material to help you navigate your way around the online physical restraint incident reporting form - this is the link for the Education Learning Management (LMS) system(external link).  You will need to:

  1. Click on the link to be taken to the Education Learning Management System
  2. Must Login with ESL (Top Button)
  3. The module will be available by scrolling down to new releases, or searching for it in the catalogue

View a sample of the online physical restraint incident reporting form (Appendix 1). [PDF, 847 KB] 

If you have any questions, you can email us at PhysicalRestraint.Change@education.govt.nz.

What this means for kura

The new online form will be available on 15 August via the community portal. Your Principal (Delegated Authority) can grant you access when needed.

Schools may continue to use the current paper-based system until it is retired on 7 February 2023.

Features of the new reporting system

  • Reporting incidents of physical restraint will be fully automated. This means:  
    • incident reports can be received in real time 
    • the time to address an incident is significantly shortened 
    • kura, ākonga and whānau can get more timely support
    • there is no duplication of effort.
  • There will be mandatory fields in the reporting form which means that all necessary information will be collected. 
  • All data is fully encrypted to ensure information is kept private and secure.
  • New reporting functions will better allow kura and the Ministry to monitor and respond to trends in using physical restraint and track outcomes in near real time. 
  • Data can be checked against Ministry sources so that the Ministry can respond in a timely way to the right kura and the right ākonga.  
  • The system can generate PDFs which means kura can provide incident reports to parents, whānau and caregivers.  
  • The number of incidents of physical restraint can be seen at local, regional and national levels. 

What’s coming up 

What 

When 

Physical restraint incident reporting form compliant with the 2017 regulations will be available via the community portal 

15 August 2022 

We will provide guidance to schools on how to use the new automated online physical restraint incident reporting form 

15 August 2022 

We will retire the current incident management application and replace it with an improved application that aligns with the new physical restraint rules and guidelines 

7 February 2023 

The new physical restraint rules and guidelines will be issued.   

7 February 2023 

New online physical restraint incident reporting form from the new rules and guidelines will replace the 2017 form 

From 7 February 2023 

We will issue school staff with new guidance on the new reporting form prior to its release  

7 February 2023 

We will release additional improvements to the new form and/or the new application based on feedback from school and Ministry users 

From 7 February 2023 

Where training and supports for schools is up to

The release of the updated guidelines in February 2023 will be supported by online training modules, webinars and resources available to help unpack what’s in the guidelines.

The Ministry is partnering with Auckland UniServices, Tui Tuia/Learning Circle and Whāraurau to design, develop and implement a series of online learning modules that will guide schools through the updated guidelines and their practical application in the classroom and school. Relevant school staff can complete these modules as they’re rolled out across the year. The first module will be available from 7 February and is mandatory. Relevant school staff will have 12 months to complete this. Online training will not be on safe holds.

All existing training and support will still be available and will continue to be available to schools. This includes existing training in safe physical holds (for teams around learners who have the use of physical restraint as part of their existing safety and support plans) and Understanding Behaviour, Responding Safely (UBRS).

We will continue to update this pages as work progresses. 

Further information

If you want to know more about these initiatives, email PhysicalRestraint.Change@education.govt.nz.

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