Calum’s law plans to curb physical restraint in schools

Posted: 23rd June 2023

A new law is being proposed following a campaign about a young man who was restrained at a special educational needs school when he was 11 years old.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson is starting a consultation on a new members’ bill after what happened to Calum Morrison. He refers to it as Calum’s Law.

He wants physical restraint guidelines in schools to be legally enforceable.

The law would ensure compulsory training for all teachers on how to de-escalate difficult situations.

Beth Morrison, from Angus, has been campaigning for more than a decade over what happened to her son Calum, who has learning disabilities, autism and epilepsy.

She says he was still at primary school child when he was restrained on the floor by four adults until he lost consciousness.

His mother says Calum had been riding a specially-constructed disabled bike in the gym hall and he did not understand the teacher’s instructions to come off it.

Ms Morrison said: “Our children are the most vulnerable in Scotland. They use their behaviour to communicate because it is all they have.

“What are we doing restraining children on the floor for discipline, for punishment, to make them comply?

“It is about control, it is not about care. That’s got to change.”

Restraint and seclusion, which involves locking someone in a room or safe space, have often been used in educational settings – particularly for children with disabilities and additional support needs.

Ms Morrison wants the current guidelines on physical restraint to become legally enforceable, with mandatory recording and reporting of all incidents.

She also wants compulsory training for all teachers and support staff in how to de-escalate difficult situations and understand children’s needs so that physical restraint can be avoided.

She told the BBC that since she started campaigning 12 years ago more than 2,500 other families had contacted her because their children had been hurt while being physically restrained.

Ms Morrison said hundreds of cases were reported to her each year and almost all the children who had been injured were of primary school age – and all of them had additional support needs.

Daniel Johnson’s proposed law comes five years after a report by Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner revealed thousands of restraint incidents, affecting hundreds of children.

The Labour MSP told the BBC: “We have now had over a number of years reports showing there is an alarming use of restraint and seclusion, sometimes literally putting them in cupboards.”

He said a change in the law was needed to make sure there was much more regulation around these practices.

Mr Johnson said the issues often arise when dealing with pupils with additional support needs in very stressful situations.

He said physical interventions might sometimes be required but there should be transparent reporting and teachers needed to be trained so parents could be confident of what was happening.

A Scottish government spokesman said they had not seen the full detail of the proposed Member’s Bill.

“Restraint and seclusion in schools must only ever be used to prevent harm and as a last resort,” he said.

“The Scottish government is currently exploring options for strengthening the legal framework in this area.”

A spokesman for the EIS union said the issue of the underfunding of ASN provision was a concern commonly raised by teachers.

“The reality is that ASN provision has been under-resourced for many years, with serious implications for young people in our schools,” he said.

“There has been a significant decline in the number of specialist ASN staff employed in schools, while the number of young people with an identified additional support need has also increased substantially over the last few years.

“Mainstreaming is not a cheap option, but must be supported by adequate staffing and resources to ensure that all young people with ASN receive the specialist support that they require and have the right to expect.”

Source: Calum’s law plans to curb physical restraint in schools – BBC News

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