More work needed on restraint and seclusion guidance, say Mathison and Nicholl

Alliance Education Committee members Nick Mathison MLA and Kate Nicholl MLA have said work is still needed on draft statutory guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion in educational settings.

Education Nick Mathison Kate Nicholl

The Department of Education launched a consultation on draft statutory guidance on the issue last year, with organisations including the Children’s Law Centre and the British Association of Social Workers sharing their concerns regarding the guidance with the Assembly’s Education Committee since then.

Earlier this week, the Committee also heard from ‘Harry’s Law’ campaigner Deirdre Shakespeare about her family’s lived experience. The law would make it compulsory for schools to report when they had restrained or isolated a child to parents and the Education Authority, but current draft statutory guidance is unclear around the need to record and report of the use of restrictive practices.

“Since taking on my role as Chair of the Education Committee, I have been contacted by a variety of key organisations, groups and individuals who have raised their concerns with the draft guidance produced by the Department,” said Strangford MLA Mr Mathison.

“These include guidance disproportionately impacting special educational needs and disabilities children, a lack of standardised, mandatory training and support for teachers and a focus on the reduction rather than elimination of restrictive interventions.”.

South Belfast MLA Kate Nicholl added: “It is extremely worrying this draft guidance issued by the Department of Education differs to that which has already been published by the Department of Health.

“If reliable work has already been undertaken on this issue, consideration should be given to amending as required, as opposed to creating new guidance which differs to that already published by the Department of Health. This is particularly relevant when considering the range of health professionals who work across multiple settings and for whom better aligned guidance would provide clarity and certainty around practice.

“It is clear further work is needed to ensure any future statutory guidance is compliant with children’s rights, supports staff in our schools and is informed by proactive consultation with parents, carers and children who have lived experience in this area.”