Education Minister Hekia Parata has today announced that she is proposing to make the use of seclusion in schools illegal.
The announcement follows the Ministry of Education’s inquiry into the use of a seclusion room at Miramar Central School where it was discovered that students, most of whom had special education needs, were on occasion locked briefly in a seclusion room to help manage violent behaviour.
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.”
NZEI Executive member Lynda Stuart said there had been a strong focus in the sector on strategies for reinforcing positive behaviour in students, and schools would see it as a sensible move.
“There’s no place for seclusion rooms in our schools and early childhood centres in 2016,” she said.
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.
“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.
A letter has been sent to all schools today outlining the Ministry’s expectations 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.