If you are a Head Teacher of a school, or a representative of the Board of Governors, responsible for the implementation of the school’s Positive Handling Training, then I can help you make sure that what you are delivering is fit for purpose and not creating a problem for you.

Currently today many schools are commissioning and delivering training that they believe will keep pupils and staff safe.

The Problem

The reality, however, is that the training may actually be doing the opposite and increasing the risk to pupils and staff, and making the school vicariously liable for any injury or miscarriage of justice, that may occur as a result of staff implementing what they have learned.

Over the years, I have been involved with many court cases as an Expert Witness on the Use of Force and I have also helped schools and many other agencies implement and improve on their positive handling training, based on a legal, medical, ethical, health and safety and safeguarding framework.

As a consequence, I have learned a lot from many of the cases I have been involved with over the years, ranging from court cases to industrial tribunals, so I know I can help you in the same way I have helped many other organisations, large and small.

This is why I am offering my services to you in the following capacity.

The Solution

I will come, if invited, and undertake a thorough analysis of your training provision and present you with a fully comprehensive and objective report with recommendations and suggestions where necessary, that you can use as pro-active management feedback, to help you improve what you do in terms of positive handling.

Why Am I Doing This?

Poor training and flawed systems of training lead to increased risk, which can impact on a pupil and a teachers’ life in a hugely negative way. As one teacher has just told me: “I’ve now been dismissed for gross misconduct. I feel like I have done something wrong but I was only following the training provided by the school.” I am now helping this teacher with his appeal which is being funded by the NUT with legal support.

In another case, a teacher is likely to be charged with assault for using a technique he was taught on a training course commissioned by the school. In a further case, a pupil is now unable to attend school due to suffering from massive anxiety because she unintentionally injured a teacher who stepped in to break up a fight.

The bottom line is if you commission training which is flawed, with failures built into it that increase the risk to pupils and teaching staff, then whoever commissions that training is fundamentally liable for not doing competent due diligence if and when a failure results in an injury to a pupil or to staff.

The problem is, how are you as a Head Teacher and/or the Board of Governors qualified or competent (and I mean no disrespect here) to know whether what you are using or intending to use is fit for purpose or whether it is likely to cause you more problems than it’s worth?

What I am offering you is a very cost-effective option and also evidence that you have undertaken an independent review of your training by a suitably qualified and competent professional.

It is a review that will stand you in good stead if you are challenged in tribunal or court.

It is also far cheaper and far less stressful then having to go to court and justify your training provision, if and when someone sues you for damages, or issues are raised of a criminal or safeguarding nature.

But before you decide if this is a good idea or not, have a look at some of the ‘Myths’ below and the links to the other resources at the bottom of this page.


# Myth 1: We have to use X Training Provider because they are the ‘preferred’ training provider for school.

Fact 1: Response from the Department of Education on the 20th December 2010.

“I should clarify that the Government does not endorse individual training providers, or the content of their courses and materials. A wide variety of training organisations offer their services to schools on a commercial basis, and schools now have the autonomy to make their own decisions on which service is most appropriate for them. Ministers believe that head teachers and their immediate colleagues are best placed to determine what training is appropriate for their staff.”

# Myth 2: One member of staff restraining a child using a ‘basket-hold’ (sometimes known as the ‘wrap’, ‘tantrum hold’ or ‘small child hold’) is acceptable.

Fact 2: Lots of guidance, going back as far as 2000, has advised that the basket-hold should not be used. In 1997 Sir Herbert Laming (the then Chief Inspector of Social Services Inspectorate) states that: “Every effort should be made to secure the presence of other staff to ensure that any action taken is both safe and successful. It would be an error of judgment if a member of staff tried to restrain a young person without proper assistance and in so doing caused injury to himself or the young person because the intervention was handled ineptly.”

# Myth 3: The current school’s guidance only advises that the ‘double basket-hold’ should not be used. It does not advise that the single basket-hold should not be used, so it must be okay?

Fact 3: In my opinion, the single-basket hold is more dangerous because it would be difficult for one person restraining to have any subjective awareness as to the risks involved, especially from the position they are in (behind the child). As it is a single person restraint, it is possibly even more dangerous because a single person by default is probably very likely to have to use more force in these positions than a properly trained restraint team.

# Myth 4: When doing the basket-hold, if the child’s hands are held on their waist as they should be, then there is no pressure on their diaphragm or lungs and it doesn’t impede their ability to breathe.

Fact 4: One of the problems with using this type of technique on children is that children will wriggle, struggle and drop their weight. This can result in the child’s arms rising upwards across their abdomen and chest area, and therefore any attempt to maintain the hold by the person restraining can result in increased force being used to maintain control that interferes with the child’s ability to breathe further.

It is also foreseeable that if the child drops to the floor, then the child’s arms could end up around their own neck (as was the case in an incident that I provided an expert witness report for). This is contrary to all current best practice guidance on the use of force for physical intervention, that states that neck holds should not be used, especially with vulnerable people and children.

# Myth 5: The basket-hold has been risk assessed and is, therefore, fit for purpose.

Fact 5: Holding a young child from behind with their arms across their body and the body of an adult pressed up against the child’s back is a potential safeguarding issue.

If you would like to speak to me about doing a restraint risk assessment and audit in your school them email me directly at markdawes@nfps.info.

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