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There may be occasions where a distressed pupil needs comfort and reassurance which may include physical comforting such as a caring parent would give.
It also covers the use of physical restraint and a range of related issues: dealing with complaints and allegations, post-incident support, staff training, and reducing the risk of such situations arising in the first place.
All our guidance is supported by specialist publications that discuss more specific issues, such as dealing with pupils who display extreme behaviour relating to a disability, and the use of physical intervention for pupils with severe behavioural difficulties. We plan to consolidate all our guidance on the use of force or physical interventions by school staff into a single document next year. When we have our consultations with our social partners, I shall try to establish whether we can work to ensure that teachers are able to act with confidence.
Norman Baker: The Minister has referred to a welter of guidance. It all seems very sensible, and I think that the consolidation into a single document will be useful, but the essential problemwhich I have identifiedis that, notwithstanding the sensible guidance, large numbers of teachers apparently do not feel able to act on it. Has the Minister any idea how to surmount that problem?
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I should like to begin by exploring the research that the hon. Gentleman has done in his constituency. I must say that I have not heard of large numbers of teachers not feeling able to act on the guidance in other parts of the country, and we may need to establish whether that is the case. It is certainly unlikely that it is an isolated incidence, confined to the hon. Gentlemans constituency, but I should also say that when I contacted representatives of his local authority they said that they were not aware of any problems. Perhaps we simply need to bring the issue out into the open.
Our single document will take into account conclusions from the review of restraint in secure settings for children and young people, which will be published shortly. However, we are also focusing on the need to help pupils to manage conflict and resolve disputes themselves before they reach the point at which teachers must be involved.
The new secondary curriculum places a broader focus on emotional health and well-being, and allows more time for learning those wider skills. Programmes such as SEALsocial and emotional aspects of learningare creating a whole-school approach to harmonious learning. That programme is fostering better relationships between pupils and teachers, helping students to recognise and manage anger and conflict in an appropriate way and to understand the feelings and points of view of others.
We also propose to make personal, social and health education a statutory part of the curriculum. Sir Alasdair MacDonald is currently undertaking a review of how we might implement that. As my noble Friend Lady Morgan said in another place,
PSHE will help children and young people understand what is appropriate and what is not appropriate touching from adults and... will give young people the confidence and assertiveness to be clear about what they see as acceptable. [Official Report, House of Lords, 12 November 2008; Vol. 705, c. 659.]
For learning to be truly effective, children need to feel safe, secure and happy at school, as well as receiving a high standard of education. No child should feel uncomfortable or threatened, and teachers should feel confident that they can manage situations in an appropriate and effective way, without fear of being penalised if the actions that they took were appropriate and absolutely necessary.
It is Government's responsibility to ensure that the systems are in place to make a pupils education and childhood as positive and as safe as they can be. We take that responsibility very seriously. We have acted, and will continue to act, to keep students and staff safe, and to build the best possible education system and world-class childrens services.