Use of Reasonable Force

This is a very hot topic at the moment, so I thought I would try and help you negotiate your way through this potential minefield. Guidelines on the use of reasonable force can be found at the link at the bottom of this post, and in that document, it does state a review date of Autumn 2011, so expect to hear changes to this guidance soon.

Most of the things I think you want to know are in that document, so I thought I would pick out a few of the parts that you particularly need to watch for instead.

The term ‘control’ which is used throughout the document is a confusing one I think, as are all the statements that say reasonable force can be used to prevent disorder. Firstly, it does explicitly state that you can remove a pupil physically from the classroom if they refuse to go. But what else is an example of using force to control and prevent disorder?

If the force can’t be used as a punishment, then it is still perfectly reasonable to force a student to sit in a chair when they refuse, to wrestle items from them that they refuse to hand over and to block a student from storming out of a classroom, another one that is specifically mentioned.

It does suggest that schools could have a rule that if a student refuses to leave a classroom then they will be physically forced out, so the suggestion is that this should be used in all of the cases all of the time.

It does however say that the use of force can’t be excessive, so that the force used must be less disruptive than the damage caused. I would argue that forcing a student out of a classroom is more force than is necessary, as it could perhaps only be preventing the student sitting there in a sulk not doing any work.

So, my advice would be to only remove a student physically from a classroom if they are being asked to leave because they are violent or abusive, and similarly not to block a student from leaving unless they are likely to act that way outside of the classroom. No matter what your school policy says.

The other issue is that of the teachers not physically being able to use reasonable force on a student, for example, if the teacher is small light and female, and the student is 16 years old, male and large. In response to this, it does state that you only have the power, not the duty, to intervene physically, but that you may still legally be required to intervene to prevent students getting hurt.

Essentially this may mean, if you are that small female teacher, that you are legally required to step in between two large year 11 male students fighting in your class. You are legally required to put yourself in physical danger. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t do that on account of not being stupid.


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