Legal problem delays Ministry guidelines

By Simon Plumb, Patrice Dougan, Simon Plumb

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The release of seclusion and restraint guidelines to teachers faced with violent and extreme situations has been delayed due to legal problems.

The Herald on Sunday revealed in July last year a taskforce was compiling the guidelines.

They were originally expected to be released in 2015, but have snagged in delays. Focusing on seclusion to manage the worst incidents, teachers will be given scenarios to show how to respond when faced with a situation in class.

The Ministry says the reason for the delay is "differing views" within the advisory group on whether new laws were needed to give teachers the power they need.

The Ministry says the guidelines for seclusion and restraint were meant to come out last month, but are now expected sometime "next term".

"The guides were due to be released in September. However there were some differing views from members of the advisory group on whether teachers needed additional powers under legislation to deal with the very rare, potentially violent situations," Kim Shannon said, the Ministry's head of sector ennoblement and support.

"We've now agreed with the advisory group that release should go ahead while we develop advice for the Minister on options for any additional statutory protections for teachers. Any change to the law, if that is a desirable option, would take some time, and schools need clear advice in the meantime.

"Next term we expect to release two separate guides for schools, guides drawn up with an advisory group of representatives of school principals, unions, school trustees, and the Ministry of Health. One is guidance for schools on the minimisation of physical restraint. The other is guidance for schools as we work towards the elimination of the use of seclusion."

Shannon said schools need clear guidance and will spell out how certain situations should be handled.

"Schools will be advised that physical restraint should only be used in emergency situations when the student's behaviour poses an imminent danger of physical injury to themselves and others. Where a student can't be managed safely, and there is imminent danger to anyone, police should be called," she said.

The taskforce which has been working the guidelines includes representatives from the Ministry of Health, Education, Child, Youth and Family and educationists.

- Herald on Sunday

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