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Equalities watchdog launches inquiry into use of restraint in schools

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a formal inquiry into how schools are monitoring and recording their use of restraint, “following widespread concerns about its use and the lack of data available”.

The watchdog said that to understand if restraint and seclusion methods were used appropriately in schools it was important to monitor and record its use. “However, despite being encouraged to, there is no legal duty on schools to record incidents, resulting in a lack of transparency and almost no official data on how and when it is being used.”

The EHRC inquiry will find out whether primary, secondary and special needs schools in England and Wales are collecting information and if so, whether they are using it to inform any improvements to how they use restraint.   

The watchdog said meaningful data could provide schools with the insight they needed to understand why restraint was being used, what type was being used, the pupils who were affected and how schools could improve their practices in future to protect the rights of the children and young people in their care.

The EHRC will also look to other institutions which are required to collect and use data, such as child and adolescent mental health units and young offender institutions, to explore if there is any learning from their approaches which could be applied to schools.

David Isaac, Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, said: “Being restrained in any way, shape or form is always traumatic. But the use of these techniques on children comes with additional risks and undermines learning in school. 

“Our schools must be safe places for all children and restraint should only be used as a last resort for the safety of any child and those around them. There are specific safeguards in place in the youth justice system and mental health units, but these are not mirrored in the education system.

“It is essential that we find out whether appropriate action is being taken to understand how restraint is being used so that all children are protected, treated with dignity and able to reach their full potential through education.”

The EHRC said it hopes that the inquiry will conclude within six months, in which time it will deliver a series of recommendations for schools, the UK Government’s Department for Education and Welsh Government.

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