Seclusion in schools to be made illegalEducation
Education Minister Hekia Parata has today announced that she is proposing to make the use of seclusion in schools illegal.
The Ministry of Education is also releasing guidance developed by an Advisory Group so that all schools can have a clear understanding of what is modern practice for dealing with challenging behaviour.
“The vast majority of schools have good practices in place for managing the challenging behaviour of a small number of students in a safe and inclusive way,” says Ms Parata. “I appreciate this can be very difficult. But in today’s world there is no situation where it is acceptable for seclusion to be used in schools or early childhood education services, so I want to make that clear in the law.”
Ms Parata will invite the Select Committee to consider a Supplementary Order Paper to the Education (Update) Amendment Bill that would prohibit seclusion in schools and early childhood education (ECE) services in a similar way to section 139A of the Education Act 1989 that prohibits corporal punishment. Select Committee consideration provides the opportunity for broad public consultation if that is what the Committee decides.
Ms Parata’s proposal will make it illegal for schools and ECE services to use seclusion, which is defined as the practice of a student being involuntarily placed alone in a room at any time or for any duration, from which they cannot freely exit or believe they cannot freely exit. Seclusion in the form of solitary confinement is already prohibited under early childhood regulations. The proposed legislation will include ECE services to ensure consistency across the education sector.
“It’s important to note that seclusion is not the same as ‘time out’, where a student voluntarily takes themselves to an agreed space or unlocked room, like a sensory room, to calm down; or when a teacher prompts a disruptive student to work in another space,” says Ms Parata.
“The Secretary of Education has today sent a letter to all schools to make our expectation clear that no school should be using seclusion.
“Parents and I have to trust that schools are providing safe, inclusive learning environments for every child and young person, and we know that most schools do a good job of this. In instances where a student exhibits violent or extremely disruptive behaviour, it’s important that other students and teachers are protected and that learning can continue to happen.”
To support this, the Ministry of Education has been working with a cross-sector Advisory Group to develop Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint.
“The proposed legislation will make seclusion illegal only in schools and ECE services,” says Ms Parata.
“There are times when involuntary detention is necessary and lawful in other environments outside of school, when undertaken with appropriate checks and balances. For example, in youth justice and mental health jurisdictions.
“However, the use of seclusion in schools and ECE services is no longer appropriate at any time. There are significant physical and psychological risks in placing a child alone in a room from which they cannot freely exit. It also presents serious health and safety risks in the event of an emergency such as a fire. These are risks we cannot allow at any school or ECE service.
“The Ministry of Education is in the process of finalising a survey of all schools to determine the number that use seclusion. I am assured by the results so far that the issue is not widespread. The Ministry will work with any school that needs help to put in place safer and more inclusive and effective ways of managing challenging behaviour,” says Ms Parata.
The guidance and the Secretary of Education’s letter to schools can be found here.