The Department has launched a consultation seeking views on its Statutory Guidance on the Reduction and Management of Restrictive Practices in Educational Settings in Northern Ireland.
The issue of the use of restrictive practices in educational settings has emerged as an area of significant public interest in recent years, with a number of cases brought to public attention by parents and carers of children with lived experience of restrictive practices.
At the request of the then Education Minister, Department of Education officials began a formal review of this area in early 2020. The Department subsequently published interim guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion in educational settings in May 2021, whilst the review was ongoing. The overarching principle contained in the interim guidance was that the best interests of the child should guide all decisions taken by staff in relation to children in their care.
The Department subsequently published a report on the ‘Review of Restraint and Seclusion in Educational Settings’ in March 2022, following the then Minister’s endorsement of the recommendations therein. One of the key recommendations contained in the report was that the Department should issue Statutory Guidance on the use of restrictive and support practices in educational settings.
Following extensive engagement with a range of key interest groups and stakeholders, the Department has developed Statutory Guidance on the Reduction and Management of Restrictive Practices in Educational Settings in Northern Ireland.
The Statutory Guidance aims to provide clarity on the use of restrictive and supportive practices in educational settings, with a view to reducing and minimising the use of restrictive practices, wherever possible. The Statutory Guidance makes clear that restrictive practices should only ever be used when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, in order to keep children, young people, and others from coming to harm.
The consultation is an opportunity for interested parties to provide views on the Statutory Guidance. An Equality Impact Assessment consultation has also been published.
The consultation period will run from Tuesday 5 September 2023 until Friday 3 November 2023 (inclusive) for both consultations.