Appendix 3 – Use of Reasonable Force
The legal provisions on school discipline also provide members of staff with the power to use reasonable force to prevent pupils committing an offence, injuring themselves or others or damaging property, and to maintain good order and discipline in the classroom.
Head teachers and authorised school staff may also use such force as is reasonable given the circumstances when conducting a search without consent for knives or weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, stolen items, tobacco and cigarette papers, fireworks, pornographic images or articles that have been or could be used to commit an offence
or cause harm. Force cannot be used to search for items banned under the school rules.
School staff have a legal power to use force and lawful use of the power will provide a defence to any related criminal prosecution or other legal action.
Suspension should not be an automatic response when a member of staff has been accused of using excessive force.
Senior school leaders should support their staff when they use this power. St John the Baptist Primary school follows the guidance from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Educational Psychology Service (HIEPS) and the DFE.
Please Note: Parental consent is not required to restrain a pupil.
What is reasonable force?
The term ‘reasonable force’ covers the broad range of actions used by most teachers at some point in their career that involve a degree of physical contact with pupils.
Force is usually used either to control or restrain. This can range from guiding a pupil to safety by the arm through to more extreme circumstances such as breaking up a fight or where a student needs to be restrained to prevent violence or injury.
‘Reasonable in the circumstances’ means using no more force than is needed.
As mentioned above, schools generally use force to control pupils and to restrain them. Control means either passive physical contact, such as standing between pupils or blocking a pupil's path, or active physical contact such as leading a pupil by the arm out of a classroom.
Restraint means to hold back physically or to bring a pupil under control. It is typically used in more extreme circumstances, for example when two pupils are fighting and refuse to separate without physical intervention.
School staff should always try to avoid acting in a way that might cause injury, but in extreme cases it may not always be possible to avoid injuring the pupil.
Who can use reasonable force?
All members of school staff have a legal power to use reasonable force.
This power applies to any member of staff at the school. It can also apply to people whom the head teacher has temporarily put in charge of pupils such as unpaid volunteers or parents accompanying students on a school organised visit.
When can reasonable force be used?
Reasonable force can be used to prevent pupils from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property, or from causing disorder.
In a school, force is used for two main purposes – to control pupils or to restrain them.
The decision on whether or not to physically intervene is down to the professional judgment of the staff member concerned and should always depend on the individual circumstances.
The following list is not exhaustive but provides some examples of situations where reasonable force can and cannot be used.
Schools can use reasonable force to:
Communicating the school’s approach to the use of force
Every school is required by law to have a behaviour policy and to make this policy known to staff, parents and pupils. This policy should include guidance on the use of reasonable force although this is not a legal requirement.
Any policy on the use of reasonable force should acknowledge their legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children and children with SEND.
Schools do not require parental consent to use force on a student.
By taking steps to ensure that staff, pupils and parents are clear about when force might be used, the school will reduce the likelihood of complaints being made when force has been used properly.
For further detail please see SJB Physical Intervention Policy.
6. The Government’s former expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, has produced a checklist on the basics of classroom management. Teachers can use it to develop between five and ten essential actions to encourage good behaviour in pupils.
7. http:// hants.gov.uk/childrens-services/childrenandyoungpeople/educational-psychology/heps-policies