Pupils have been physically restrained at school 423 times in three months, with most incidents - 321- occurring in primary or intermediate schools.

New rules requiring schools to report any use of physical restraint to the Ministry of Education came into force on August 15 and information released to the Herald under the OIA has revealed how often it has happened between August 1 and October 25.

The incidents reported during that period happened at 186 schools across the country, including 79 special schools.

More than half involved students who were on an Incident Behaviour Plan.

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Physical restraint was only used as a last resort and in cases were a teacher or school staffer reasonably believed a student or other person was serious and immediate danger, Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector enablement and support, said.

A "physical restraint" is defined under section 139AC of the Education Act 1989 as "using physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue the movement of a student's body or part of the student's body".

Situations were it might be required included when staff were preventing a student from running on the road or breaking up a fight, Casey said.

The Education Act also states the restraint used must be reasonable and in proportion to the circumstances.

The Ministry was however unable to provide details of what restraints were used in each incident.