By Bill Heaney
Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson will today launch a consultation on a Members Bill to protect school children from harm.
The Bill looks to enshrine in law the existing guidance on physical restraint and seclusion in schools in order to ensure it is only used as a last resort.
As it stands the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools is regulated only by guidance rather than law. As a result, the guidance is difficult to enforce and there are significant inconsistencies in the data collected and the definitions being used.
The Children’s Commissioner undertook an investigation into restraint and seclusion in schools which exposed a number of serious concerns. Only 18 of Scotland’s 32 authorities could provide any data on the use of restraint and seclusion in school and they collectively reported 2,674 incidents relating to 386 children. The stark reality is that equates to around 5.6 incidents per child.
Daniel Johnson’s proposed bill will:
- Create a requirement to record and report all incidents to an existing Scottish Government body;
- Establish a role for this body to monitor the approach to seclusion and restraint in schools and make recommendations for improvement;
- Inform parents or carers of each incidence of seclusion or restraint including details of the circumstances and the methods used;
- Implement a complaints process to provide a clear route for concerns over exclusions and restraint to be escalated;
- Provide a statutory basis for standards of training for school staff including teachers and teaching assistants;
- Require data including on the incidence of seclusion and restraint to be regularly published by the Scottish Government and reported to Parliament.
The move is backed by campaigners such as Beth Morrison, who has fought for a law change after her son was physically restrained at school, and by the charity Enable.
Commenting on the launch of the Bill consultation, Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “Schools must be a safe place for children to learn, teachers must be supported and empowered to enable learning and parents must have confidence in how schools discharge this duty.
“All too often teachers face situations in their classroom for which they have not received adequate training. They have not had the time or the opportunity to learn about the underlying conditions which cause these distressing situations that they have to deal with.
“That is why I believe there needs to be a change in the law.
“While we have made progress and the Scottish government has brought forward guidance, this does not have the weight of law nor does it have the other mechanisms that children, parents and teachers need when it comes to the use of physical interventions in school settings.”
Beth Morrison, Founder and CEO of Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland (PABSS), activist and Calum Morrison’s mum commented: “After more than a decade of campaigning to uphold the human rights of Scotland’s most vulnerable children from the misuse of restraint and seclusion, we are delighted that Daniel Johnson MSP is launching a consultation on his private members bill for Calum’s Law.
“The median age for a child to be subjected to restraint and/or seclusion is just 6 years old. The most recent UNCRC concluding observations call for Statutory Government Guidance, recording and monitoring of incidents and training for staff.
“We must stop the blanket restraint training and give staff the right skills and expertise to do the jobs they love. Right now, Scotland is trailing behind the rest of the UK in this issue, and I can only hope that all parties in the Scottish Parliament get behind us to make sure children are protected in law in future.”
Lucy McKee, Enable Membership Ambassador: “Enable’s ‘In Safe Hands?’ campaign found that far too often, children with learning disabilities experience distress or even injury from the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Daniel Johnson’s Bill is vital because current guidance for schools is not binding, and is not doing enough to protect young people from harm. This is about the human rights of children with learning disabilities, and we hope this proposal will be supported by MSPs from all parties.”
The consultation will be open until Tuesday 12th September 2023 and can be accessed online here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/RestraintAndSeclusion/
Daniel Johnson will be holding a launch event on Tuesday 20 June. For more details please email email@example.com.
Calum’s law campaign: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-63375505
Timeline of Scottish Government legislation
1980 – The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 includes a number of duties on education authorities including the fundamental duty to secure the provision of education services.
1998 – The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 provided for the abolition of corporal punishment. A ban on corporal punishment for minors had widely been in effect since the mid 1980s.
1998 – The Human Rights Act gave further effect in the UK to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights including in relation to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
2000 – The Standards in Scotland’s Schools Etc Act 2000 introduced a legal presumption that children will be educated in mainstream schools.
2004 – The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 provided for a broad definition of additional support needs and numerous related provisions set out further in this section.
2010 – The Equalities Act 2010 places a number of duties on the responsible bodies of schools not to discriminate against pupils with protected characteristics.
2014 – The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 placed a duty on Scottish Ministers to identify and take steps to give further effect in Scotland to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.