It was reported at the end of last week that there were many restraint injuries reported in special needs schools according to the BBC. According to the report, there have been 773 incidents reported in the last three years according to a Freedom of Information Request based on 13,000 physical restraints. Now I understand that this may have t be done on occasions to keep the people within the classroom safe, however, these seem like an unusually large number of restraint-related injuries.
I speak with a bit of experience here from both sides of the situation. I have an autistic son who attends a special needs school and also have had to use reasonable force a few times within my own classes as a further education tutor. I know my own son has two support workers and he can be a bit of a handful but I have to also say he has never had any restraint injuries which I am obviously delighted about. Going back to my own teaching experiences, there are many times I have had to step between students and remove them from the classroom. It is different though as this is for young adults and not, people with severe learning disabilities.
I think the bigger issue here is the possibility that restraint is being used as a punishment rather than a safety technique. If this is the case and it can be proven, I really hope whoever is responsible for this is dealt with in the severest way possible. These techniques should only be used as a last resort to avoid injury and never for punishment. I fear though, with the funding cuts that are going on in UK education though those things are going to get worse, there will just not be the highly trained practitioners to deal with these students will complex learning needs.
Dealing with people that have severe learning difficulties is a very difficult job and there are some fantastically dedicated practitioners doing it, I just hope the possibility of a few bad apples does not tarnish the reputation of the thousands of great teachers and support workers.
I will be interested in what the Department of Education put into their new guidelines that are going to be published in relation to restraining in schools. I just hope it works in the best interests of all parties involved and brings an end to restraint-related injuries.