Comment

Positive behaviour support: the practical alternative to the use of restraint in special schools

As more children who have learning disabilities face disciplinary action at school, equipping schools to adopt a positive behaviour support system is important for the country to move forward, writes Sarah Leitch.

A recent edition of the radio programme, BBC 5 Live Investigates highlighted the impact of the use of restraint in special schools. A Freedom of Information request to the 207 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales revealed 13,000 physical restraints in the last three years, resulting in 731 injuries. But only 37 local authorities less than one fifth were able to provide data, suggesting the numbers could be much higher.

The culture in most schools in UK is focused on disciplinary approaches such as children being sent out of the class, put in detention or excluded. This approach puts the blame on the child when often it is really that their needs have not been

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A recent edition of the radio programme, BBC 5 Live Investigates highlighted the impact of the use of restraint in special schools. A Freedom of Information request to the 207 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales revealed 13,000 physical restraints in the last three years, resulting in 731 injuries. But only 37 local authorities – less than one fifth – were able to provide data, suggesting the numbers could be much higher.


 Equipping schools to adopt positive behaviour support rather than disciplinary action is the
next step in approaching the needs of children who have learning disabilities. Picture: Getty Images

The culture in most schools in UK is focused on disciplinary approaches such as children being sent out of the class, put in detention or excluded. This approach puts the blame on the child when often it is really that their needs have not been met.

We need to support schools to understand the reason for the behaviour and shift the culture and values away from blaming and punishing the child. We need to instead to take responsibility as adults and recognise what we need to do differently to meet the child's needs.

Small numbers

There are increasing number of special schools adopting positive behaviour support (PBS) to facilitate this cultural shift and to skill up their workforce. However, it is still too few. We need PBS to be adopted by every special school in the UK and prevent the over reliance on restrictive practices in some special schools.

Schools are particularly looking for support to manage cultural change and equip their teachers and other staff with the right knowledge and skills to develop preventive ways of working where needs are identified and met before behaviours becomes challenging or concerning.

'We can look to further improve the well-being and school experience of the pupils and staff by reducing physical handling'

Penny Barratt – who adopted the scheme

Teachers want to do the right thing and, in our experience, are receptive to PBS as they quickly see it can improve everyone’s experience and support a better learning environment.

We are supporting school staff to reduce the likelihood of behaviours that challenge or are concerning happening by creating physical and social environments that are supportive and capable of meeting children’s needs.

'Robust framework'

Penny Barratt at the Bridge, Islington, says of PBS: 'It’s the approach we’re taking because it provides us with an ethical, values based and robust framework. PBS builds on the work already taking place in the school and helps us understand the reasons for behaviour, meaning we can adapt what we do to prevent behaviour and respond appropriately when we can't prevent it. Crucially, we can look to further improve the well-being and school experience of the pupils and staff by reducing physical handling.'

When we ran a PBS training course at the Pield Heath House school in Uxbridge, the response of school staff was really positive. Comments included: ‘Incredibly practical to the improvement of the school’, ‘The course challenged what I thought was good practice, it's done a good job in highlighting where I want to be as a member of the school’, and ‘It will be amazing in a year's time to see how far we've moved forward.’

We need every school to be equally excited about the change they expect to see over the next year.

Reference

Want to know more about PBS?


About the authors

  

Sarah Leitch and and Tom Evans are positive behaviour support development managers, Centre for the Advancement of Positive Behaviour Support at BILD, Birmingham, UK 

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