Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 11:25 UK

Teachers 'allowed to use force'

Playground fight
Many schools have 'no contact' policies, say the Conservatives

Teachers in England are allowed to use reasonable force to break up fights and control persistently unruly pupils, Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said.

It is a "myth" that schools should have "no-contact" policies, he said.

Mr Balls launched guidelines on the use of force by teachers at the NASUWT teachers' conference in Birmingham.

Examples where teachers might have to use force include staff trying to stop pupils damaging property or pupils continually refusing to leave class.

The guidelines are intended to clarify the powers already available to teachers - and to remove doubts over teachers' legal right to use reasonable physical force.

Mr Balls said: "Teachers have the powers they need to manage bad behaviour but I am aware that many fear retribution if they were to forcibly remove an unruly pupil.

This is clearly not about punishment, this is about restraint to prevent something happening that would be a danger to somebody
Christine Blower, NUT

"This guidance aims to stop teachers being afraid of using the powers they have when necessary.

"Myths that schools should have 'no-contact policies', that teachers shouldn't be able to protect and defend themselves and others, will be dispelled by this new guidance which makes clear that in some situations, teachers have the powers and protection to use force."

The guidance says teachers can act when pupils are fighting and could hurt each other and where a pupil is deliberately damaging property.

It also applies where children are continually refusing to follow instructions to leave a class, or seriously disrupting a lesson or school activity.

Youngsters who are hurting, or at risk of hurting, someone by accident can also be restrained.

Professional judgement

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Christine Blower, said she agreed with the guidelines clarifying the right to use force.

"This is clearly not about punishment, this is about restraint to prevent something happening that would be a danger to somebody," she said.

"We do know that there's a very high level of concern about children being touched at all.

"This is about making sure that if there is a situation in which a teacher needs to intervene, it is entirely appropriate - if it's proportionate - to restrain the child or pull back their hand if they might otherwise be about to hit someone or throw something which would be dangerous.

Republishing existing guidance is not going to solve this problem
Michael Gove

"Teachers need to get a clear message that if it's proportionate and appropriate, they need to use their professional judgement to make that restraint."

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said "no-touch" policies were a very real issue and were "a key reason" for discipline problems in schools.

He said the Conservatives had promised that teachers facing an allegation made against them by a pupil would be given anonymity "until any guilt is proven".

"Republishing existing guidance is not going to solve this problem.

"Over 1,000 pupils a day are being excluded for assault and abuse.

"A key reason for this is teachers are afraid to tackle violence and disruption in the classroom - one study found that over half of schools now have some form of 'no-touch' policy that prevents teachers from restraining troublemakers."

He said the Conservatives would ensure teachers could use force without fear of legal action, allow them to search pupils for "potentially disruptive items".

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