education.vic.gov.au

Policy last updated

21 February 2024

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils
  • All Department staff

Date:
February 2020

Policy

Policy

This policy outlines when physical restraint and seclusion are permitted to be used in Victorian government schools and lists practices that are not permitted to be used in Victorian government schools. This policy details reporting and notification requirements and the responsibilities school and Department staff have in relation to incidents of physical restraint and seclusion.

Summary

  • Physical restraint and seclusion are only permitted within Victorian government schools in exceptional circumstances where it is immediately required and reasonably necessary to protect the safety of a student or another person. Physical restraint and seclusion are not permitted at any other time.
  • No person – including a parent/carer, clinician, practitioner, or student – can authorise, consent to, or approve the use of physical restraint or seclusion in a school.
  • Every instance of physical restraint and seclusion must be reported as an incident on eduSafe Plus, the department’s online incident reporting and hazard management system, or by calling the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) on 1800 126 126.
  • Every instance of physical restraint and seclusion require schools, regions, and central office to undertake specified actions according to the severity rating of the incident.

Details

Application of this policy

The Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines applies to all Victorian government schools, school staff, external practitioners and volunteers working closely with students. Schools must ensure non-school Department staff working with students are provided with a link to this policy.

Schools must not develop local policies to replace this one.

It is the responsibility of the school principal to ensure that this policy and associated guidance are complied with within their school. Principals and staff are encouraged to revisit this policy on an annual basis through discussion at staff meetings, professional development, or training sessions.

Schools must ensure that this policy is communicated to new staff on induction and included as a link in staff handbooks/manuals.

Schools must comply with existing obligations to protect the privacy of students and data when managing incidents of physical restraint and seclusion.

Schools may communicate this policy to their school community by placing a link to it on their website or their local student wellbeing and engagement policy – refer to the School Policy Templates Portal: Student Wellbeing and EngagementExternal Link (staff login required) for a template policy.

This policy is supported by the Restraint and Seclusion Guidelines and Resources.

What is physical restraint?

Physical restraint is the use of physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue the movement of a student’s body or part of their body. Students are not free to move away when they are being physically restrained.

A plain English version of this definition is that physical restraint is when someone physically stops a student from moving.

Physical restraint does not include protective physical interventions which use physical contact to block, deflect or redirect a student's actions, or disengage a student's grip, but from which a student can move freely away.

What is seclusion?

Seclusion refers to leaving a student alone in a room or area from which they are prevented from leaving by a barrier or another person. This includes situations where a door is locked as well as where the door is blocked by other objects or held closed by another person.

A plain English version of this definition is that seclusion is when a student is in a room or space on their own that they cannot get out of.

This definition of seclusion does not include supervised situations (where student activity is overseen or watched over by a staff member) such as:

  • where one or a few students are taught away from their peers
  • exiting a student from their class for the purposes of supporting the student’s ability to re-engage with the class at a later point
  • the temporary removal of a student from their regular classroom activities because their behaviour significantly interferes with the learning of other students, the capacity of a teacher to teach all students, or where the student’s behaviour creates a risk of harm to themselves or others
  • a behaviour intervention strategy that directs a student away from an activity in one area to another to prevent an escalation of behaviour
  • the suspension, detention, or expulsion of a student
  • exam and other situations where a student can freely exit an area.

Authorisation to use physical restraint and seclusion

Regulation 25 (Restraint from danger) of the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 provides that a member of staff of a government school may take any reasonable action that is immediately required to restrain a student of the school from acts or behaviour that are dangerous to the member of staff, the student, or any other person. The Restraint and Seclusion Policy authorises school staff to use physical restraint and seclusion when reasonable and immediately required to protect the member of staff, the student, or any other person from acts or behaviour that might be dangerous to them. The primary purpose of using physical restraint and seclusion is to prevent harm to a student or someone else.

Children cannot consent to being physically restrained or secluded.

Parents/carers cannot consent to the use of physical restraint or seclusion.

Clinicians or practitioners cannot authorise, consent to, or approve the use of physical restraint or seclusion in a school. If this occurs, contact the Principal Behaviour Support Adviser by email: restraint.seclusion@education.vic.gov.au

Use of physical restraint and seclusion to prevent immediate harm

Victorian government school staff may only use physical restraint and seclusion where:

  • there is an imminent threat of physical harm or danger to a student or others and
  • the physical restraint and seclusion are reasonable in all the circumstances and
  • there is no less restrictive measure available in the circumstances.

During physical restraint and seclusion incidents, the student/s must be visually monitored for signs of distress and pain to ensure the student’s physical health is not jeopardised and that the student, other students, and staff are safe.

Staff must ensure that the use of physical restraint and seclusion is time limited and that it stops as soon as the immediate threat of harm or danger to the student or others has passed.

When physical restraint and seclusion are prohibited

School staff must never use physical restraint and seclusion as behaviour management techniques, for convenience, as retaliation, or to discipline or punish a student.

Physical restraint must never be used where it has the effect of:

  • covering a student’s mouth or nose, or in any way interferes with breathing
  • taking a student to the ground into the prone or supine position
  • putting stress on a student’s joints
  • applying pressure to the neck, back, chest or joints
  • deliberately applying pain to gain compliance
  • intentionally causing a student to fall
  • having a person sitting, lying, or kneeling on a student.

The following behaviours are prohibited:

  • headlocks, choke holds, basket holds, bear hugs, therapeutic holding or wrestling holds (including full or half nelsons)
  • using a hog-tied position
  • straddling any part of a student's body
  • dragging a student along the ground.

Physical restraint and seclusion must never be included in a student plan including behaviour support and student safety plans.

Designated seclusion rooms and areas that are primarily used for the purpose of seclusion are prohibited.

Preventing a student from leaving an area normally used by students with a locking mechanism is prohibited.

Doors and door handles installed in such a manner as to prevent a student from leaving the room unassisted are prohibited.

Physical restraint is not permitted to be used to vaccinate a student.

Actions required after an incident of physical restraint or seclusion

Report the incident

Notify the principal. Staff members involved in the incident must immediately notify the principal or their delegate.

Every incident of physical restraint or seclusion with a ‘low’ or ‘medium’ severity rating must be reported as an incident on eduSafe Plus, the department’s online incident reporting and hazard management system. Every incident of physical restraint and seclusion with a ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ severity rating must be reported to ISOC on 1800 126 126 who will lodge the eduSafe Plus report.

Notify parents/carers. The principal or their delegate must, as soon as practicable (for example, within the same school day), inform parents/carers following an incident in which physical restraint or seclusion has been used with their child.

Employee misconduct

The use of physical restraint or seclusion outside the Restraint and Seclusion Policy may also constitute reportable conduct in circumstances where the restraint or seclusion could also be an allegation of:

  • physical violence committed against, with or in the presence of a child
  • behaviour causing significant emotional or psychological harm to a child
  • significant neglect of a child.

The principal or regional director must:

  • report such incidents on eduSafe Plus or by calling the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) in accordance with Managing and Reporting School Incidents (including emergencies)
  • notify the Employee Conduct Branch (ECB) as soon as possible after becoming aware of a reportable allegation involving any employees, contractors, volunteers (including parents), allied health staff and school council employees. The ECB assess allegations and, if appropriate, report allegations to the Commission for Children and Young People. The ECB can be contacted by telephone on 03 7022 0005 or by email via employee.conduct@education.vic.gov.au

Provide support to those involved

Following the use of physical restraint or seclusion, appropriate supports must be offered to all affected students, including, but not limited to, physical and psychological needs and ongoing monitoring and recovery support.

Where an incident impacts on the health, safety, and wellbeing of staff, the principal or delegate must submit an eduSafe Plus report and consider whether a report to WorkSafe is required (contactable on 1800 136 089). Staff should be encouraged to access the Employee Assistance Program for counselling support following an incident.

Document the incident

Schools must document every incident of physical restraint and seclusion. Written records must be added to the Computerised Administrative System Environment for Schools (CASES21).

Reflect, review and plan

Following an incident of physical restraint or seclusion, the school must consider any preventative and de-escalation strategies that might reduce the likelihood of an incident happening again.

Legal framework for this policy

Regulation 25 of the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 provides that a member of staff of a government school may take any reasonable action that is immediately required to restrain a student of the school from acts or behaviour that are dangerous to the member of staff, the student, or any other person. The Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines translate the regulation for school use, outlining when physical restraint and seclusion are permitted to be used, identifying prohibited practices, and providing details on reporting and notification requirements of school staff.

School principals, teachers and all staff working with students in a school have a legal duty of care to students to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of reasonably foreseeable harm to students. This duty of care cannot be delegated to others.

It is also unlawful to directly or indirectly discriminate against a student based on their disability. The definition of disability under discrimination legislation is wide and includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of a disability. In these cases, physical restraint and seclusion may amount to discrimination as a form of unfavourable treatment of a student because of their disability where reasonable adjustments have not been made.

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities requires Victorian government school staff to act consistently with human rights and to consider relevant human rights, including the rights of students to be treated with respect and dignity, when making decisions, including decisions about student behaviour that poses an imminent threat of physical harm or danger to the student or others.

Under the minimum standards for school registration (Minimum Standards) government schools are required to:

  • follow the department’s policy on Restraint and Seclusion and are not required to have a local policy on restrictive interventions. Government schools should acknowledge that they follow this policy by including a statement in their Student Wellbeing and Engagement policyExternal Link (staff login required) or similar that ‘restrictive interventions are measures of last resort and may only be used in situations consistent with the department’s Restraint and Seclusion Policy’
  • comply with the Child Safe Standards, which includes a requirement for schools to ensure that staff understand the diverse needs of students, provide support to vulnerable students, and pay particular attention to the needs of students with disability.

See Minimum Standards and School Registration, Child Safe Standards and PROTECTExternal Link for more information.

Definitions

Refer to the Guidance chapter on Definitions.

Relevant legislation


Guidance

Restraint and Seclusion Guidelines for schools

The purpose of these guidelines is to support Victorian government schools to implement the Department's Restraint and Seclusion Policy appropriately to make sure physical restraint and seclusion are only used as the last resort, when there is an imminent threat of physical harm or danger to the student or someone else.

The guidelines contain the following chapters:

  • Implementation of the policy and guidelines
  • Critical information about restraint and seclusion
  • When physical restraint and seclusion are permitted
  • When physical restraint and seclusion are prohibited
  • Use of physical restraint and seclusion
  • Immediate response to a physical restraint or seclusion incident
  • Reporting
  • Provide support
  • Document the incident
  • Reflect on, review, and learn from the physical restraint or seclusion incident
  • Professional development
  • The principal behaviour support adviser
  • Department roles and responsibilities
  • Definitions

Implementation of the policy and guidelines

Implementation of the policy and guidelines

The Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines cannot describe every situation where physical restraint or seclusion may or may not be appropriate.

The decision whether to use physical restraint or seclusion rests with the professional judgement and discretion of school staff and will vary in different circumstances and contexts. School staff should ensure they are familiar with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines so they understand the limited circumstances when physical restraint and seclusion may be used.

The Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines apply to every Victorian government school.

Implementation of the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and these Guidelines is the responsibility of every principal. Effective implementation relies on:

  • revisiting them on an annual basis as a school team (for example, through discussion at staff meetings, professional development, or training sessions) and as individuals
  • established procedures within schools for reporting physical restraint and seclusion - refer to: Within-School Procedure for Reporting Physical Restraint and Seclusion IncidentsExternal Link
  • schools implementing evidence-based positive behaviour support programs, modifying environments, and ensuring data is appropriately recorded
  • staff feeling safe in their work environments
  • Behaviour Support Plans being used with fidelity to address challenging behaviours of students
  • all incidents of physical restraint or seclusion being reviewed and, if appropriate, behavioural strategies being revised – refer to: Guide for Conducting a School-Based ReviewExternal Link .

Schools must comply with the Department’s Privacy and Information Sharing Policy when managing incidents of physical restraint or seclusion. Information can be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis to discharge important legal obligations such as duty of care.

Non-school department staff, such as allied health practitioners and NDIS-funded therapists, working with students are required to comply with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines. Schools must provide non-school department staff working with students with a link to the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and these Guidelines.

The department will review the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines on a regular basis and update as required.


Critical information about restraint and seclusion

Critical information about restraint and seclusion

Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of physical restraint or seclusion.

Schools are expected to intervene early to prevent problem behaviour becoming behaviour of concern. Schools are also expected to take deliberate steps to create and maintain child safe organisations and protect students from all forms of abuse. If necessary, support can be sought from Student Support Services or Health and Wellbeing Key Contacts via Regional OfficesExternal Link (login required).

Physical restraint and seclusion are only permitted within Victorian government schools where these are immediately required to protect the safety of the student or another person.

Physical restraint and seclusion are not permitted at any other time.


When physical restraint and seclusion are permitted

When physical restraint and seclusion are permitted

Victorian government school staff may use seclusion or physical restraint where:

  • there is an immediate risk of physical harm or danger from acts or behaviour that are dangerous to the member of staff, the student, or any other person
  • the seclusion or physical restraint is reasonable in the circumstances
  • there is no less restrictive measure available to respond in the circumstances.

In this context 'reasonable' means:

  • proportionate to the risk of harm
  • discontinued once the risk of harm has dissipated
  • respectful of the student’s dignity.

Examples of physical restraint that might be 'reasonable' include:

  • using manual guidance to prevent a student running onto a busy road
  • holding a student’s arms to prevent them physically attacking someone
  • holding a student’s hand to prevent repetitive, serious self-injurious behaviour.

When seclusion or physical restraint are used in these limited circumstances, the:

  • minimum level of force is to be used to prevent harm
  • application must be for the minimum duration required and should be stopped once the risk has passed.

School staff must ensure the type of seclusion or physical restraint used takes a student’s individual needs and circumstances into account, including the following.

Age and size of the student

Students of different ages and abilities will respond differently to being physically restrained. For example, female students may be very uncomfortable being physically restrained by a male teacher. Older students may be of equal or greater physical size to staff making physical restraint difficult or higher risk.

Past behaviours of the student

Students whose behaviour has previously escalated when being physically restrained may pose a higher risk of physical harm to the adult(s) restraining.

Visual, hearing and/or communication needs of the student

Students who do not communicate using speech, who have limited speech, or who have limited vision or hearing may not be able to communicate their distress or injury when being restrained or follow the instructions of staff when being physically restrained.

History of trauma experienced by the student

Being physically restrained may remind the student of previous upsetting experiences (including physical and sexual abuse).

Environment in which the restraint is taking place

Learning environments offer a wide variety of considerations for the adult(s) to account for. For example, the type of flooring or ground cover, clothing worn which may increase or decrease risk, equipment and furnishings which may cause injury if struck.


When physical restraint and seclusion are prohibited

When physical restraint and seclusion are prohibited

Victorian government school staff must never use physical restraint and seclusion as a behaviour management technique, for convenience, as retaliation, or to discipline or punish a student. For example, physical restraint and seclusion must not be used to respond to:

  • a student’s refusal to comply with a direction, unless that refusal to comply creates an imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or another person
  • a student leaving the classroom/school without permission, unless the leaving of the classroom or school causes foreseeable risk to the physical safety of the student or another person
  • verbal threats of harm from a student, except where there is a reasonable belief that the threat will be carried out immediately
  • property destruction caused by the student unless the property destruction is placing any person, including the student, at a risk of physical harm.

Physical restraint must never be used where it has the effect of:

  • covering the student’s mouth or nose, or in any way restricts breathing
  • taking the student to the ground into the prone position (lying flat with the face down – sometimes this will include lying flat with the face down and with hands held behind the head or neck) or supine position (lying with the face up)
  • putting stress on the joints of a student
  • applying pressure to the neck, back, chest or joints
  • deliberately applying pain to gain compliance
  • causing the student to fall
  • having a person sitting, lying, or kneeling on a student.

The following behaviours are prohibited:

  • headlocks, choke holds, basket holds, bear hugs, therapeutic holding or wrestling holds (including full or half nelsons)
  • using a hog-tied position
  • straddling any part of a student's body
  • dragging a student along the ground.

Staff of government schools must not administer corporal punishment to any government school student.

Physical restraint and seclusion must never be included in any student plan including a Behaviour Support Plan (PDF)External Link and Student Safety Plan. This is because physical restraint and seclusion are not behaviour management techniques and physical restraint and seclusion must not be planned. If staff can predict situations or behaviour that might pose a risk of physical harm or danger to a student or other people, they must have early intervention and prevention strategies in place.

Designated seclusion rooms and areas that are primarily used for the purpose of seclusion are prohibited.

Preventing a student from leaving an area normally used by students with a locking mechanism is prohibited. Doors and door handles installed in such a manner as to prevent a student from leaving the room unassisted are prohibited. For more information about the use of locks, coded locks, and door handles in schools, refer to the Locks, coded locks, and door handles guidance (DOCX)External Link available on the Resources tab.

Physical restraint is not permitted to be used to vaccinate a student. Vaccinations given on school property, including COVID-19 vaccinations given to students in school-based pop up clinics, must comply with the Restraint and Seclusion and Immunisation policies. For more information, refer to the Physical restraint and vaccinations guidance (DOCX)External Link available on the Resources tab.


Use of physical restraint and seclusion

Use of physical restraint and seclusion

Physical restraint and seclusion are only permitted within Victorian government schools where they are immediately required to protect the safety of a student or another person.

If you apply physical restraint or seclusion, you must:

  • take reasonable steps to ensure the immediate safety, health and wellbeing of the student/s and anyone else involved
  • ensure that a member of staff can always observe a student in seclusion and be available immediately to enter the space if necessary (for instance, to administer first aid or remove objects in the student’s possession that could be used to harm themselves)
  • where reasonably practicable school staff should talk to the student being restrained throughout the incident, explain why the physical restraint or seclusion is being applied and that the physical restraint or seclusion will stop once it is no longer necessary to protect the student and/or others
  • consider that a history of suicidal ideation or self-harm should preclude the use of seclusion on a balance of risk.

Physical restraint and seclusion must be discontinued immediately where:

  • the student who is the subject of the physical restraint or seclusion says they cannot breathe, vomits, is showing signs of physical or serious psychological distress, starts to change in pallor, has a medical emergency
  • the staff member who is administering the physical restraint or seclusion reports or is observed to be injured, unwell or is for any other reason unable to continue to manage the situation safely for any reason
  • the physical restraint or seclusion is no longer necessary to prevent harm.

Immediate response to a physical restraint or seclusion incident

Immediate response to a physical restraint or seclusion incident

  • If an incident of physical restraint or seclusion becomes a medical or other emergency call 000.
  • Administer first aid if required.
  • Keep other students away from the emergency/incident.
  • If necessary, arrange for an evacuation, lock-down or temporary shelter in a building/s on the school site until the emergency has passed.

Reporting

Reporting

The principal or their delegate must be notified of any physical restrain or seclusion incident.

Every incident of physical restraint and seclusion must be managed in accordance with the department’s policy, Managing and Reporting School Incidents (including emergencies).

Report the incident to the department

  • Every incident of physical restraint or seclusion must be reported as an incident on eduSafe Plus, the department’s online incident reporting and hazard management system. This can be self-reported by principals (or their authorised delegates within eduSafe Plus), or by calling the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) on 1800 126 126.
  • The principal (or delegate) is responsible for assessing the severity of the incident, using the Severity rating decision-making matrix (PDF)External Link . However, the ISOC can be contacted on 1800 126 126 for support (Report for Support) when assessing and assigning the incident severity rating.
  • The context of an incident may influence its severity rating, whether there has been a pattern or history of this type of incident, as well as specific student needs or medical history.
  • Incidents assessed as ‘Low’ or ‘Medium’ can be reported directly into eduSafe Plus by the principal (or delegate) or can be reported by contacting ISOC. ISOC can report incidents in eduSafe Plus on behalf of the school.
  • Incidents assessed as ‘High’ or ‘Extreme’ severity require the principal (or delegate) to contact ISOC. ISOC will report incidents in eduSafe Plus on behalf of the school.

Incident severity ratings – 'High' and 'Extreme'

Principals (or their delegates) are required to report to ISOC:

  • ‘Extreme’ severity rated incidents immediately (within the hour)
  • ‘High’ severity rated incidents as soon as possible (within 3 hours).

On receipt of a report for an incident rated 'High' and 'Extreme', ISOC will lodge the eduSafe Plus report, for coordination of supports and the response in the school.

The following facts are required to be included in all reports:

  • The name of the student(s)
  • Age of the student(s)
  • Year level of the student(s)
  • A brief account of the incident, which may include:
    • What happened immediately before the behaviour (the antecedent/ trigger)?
    • What action was taken to de-escalate the situation?
    • What was the observed behaviour resulting in the need for restraint or seclusion?
  • Describe the physical restraint or seclusion used (for example, student’s arms held against the sides of their body for one minute):
    • How many staff were involved in the incident?
    • Differentiate between physical restraint and protective physical interventions.
  • Accurately identify if seclusion was used (for example, was the student left alone in a room and prevented from leaving the room)
  • Recording both physical restraint and seclusion may be necessary in some incidents (for example, if a student is physically restrained to seclude them)
  • Did the student’s behaviour pose an immediate risk to:
    • the student’s own safety
    • another student’s safety
    • staff safety
    • school property
  • What happened immediately following the incident (the consequence)?
    • Was the student returned to regular routine?
    • Was the student returned to modified routine?
    • Was the student exited to parent/carer?
    • Was the student exited to emergency services?
    • Was the student suspended?
    • Other – please provide further detail.
  • For each additional incident within the one call, please record:
    • Date
    • Time
    • Any additional information related specifically to that incident
  • Whether the incident was related to physical restraint, seclusion, or protective physical intervention

Incidents that impact staff

Where there is an incident that impacts on the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, schools must:

  • include these details in the eduSafe Plus report. The principal and/or their delegate must ensure all identified hazards and incidents involving employees, volunteers, visitors, contractors, and members of the public are reported onto eduSafe Plus. This includes employee or volunteer related incidents that occur both on and off the department premises
  • consider if a report to WorkSafe is required. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)External Link requires notification to WorkSafe of serious workplace incidents, referred to as ‘Notifiable Incidents’. Refer to the Defined health and safety terms guidance chapter of the Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Policy for a definition of ‘notifiable incident’.

Schools should also consider contacting the:

Why reporting is required

Compliance with department policies is a requirement of employment in Victorian government schools. Reporting of incidents of physical restraint or seclusion enables:

  • the provision of support services and minimisation of the scale and duration of disruption caused by an incident
  • a state-wide view of trends to inform prevention initiatives and support services
  • compliance with requests for physical restraint and seclusion data from independent external agencies.

Report the incident to parents/carers

In addition to reporting the incident to the department, parents/carers must be informed as soon as practicable following an incident in which physical restraint or seclusion has been used with their child.

School staff need to use their judgement about what type of communication is appropriate for a student’s family/carer following an incident, but staff must use the most efficient and effective method available (for instance, face-to-face conversation at the end of the school day, email or telephone notification, message left via a communication book, or scheduled meeting).

Schools are required to document all conversations with parents/carers and attempts to notify them of an incident involving their child.

Schools must provide parents/carers with the following information:

  • when the incident happened
  • if there were injuries to the student, what they are and how they are being treated
  • a description of the physical restraint or seclusion used (what was done to the student)
  • why the student was physically restrained or secluded
  • what triggered the student’s behaviour
  • a description of the student’s behaviour
  • what happened after the incident
  • who was involved in the incident
  • whether anyone else was injured or property damaged
  • what post incident actions the school has or will undertake.

Managing complaints from parents

It is understandable that some parents/carers may feel upset or angry if their child has been physically restrained or secluded. If parents/carers make a complaint in relation to an incident, refer to the department’s advice on Complaints — Parents.


Provide support

Provide support

Incidents of physical restraint or seclusion may be distressing for students and staff involved and for witnesses.

Provide support to students

When responding to incidents of physical restraint or seclusion schools must provide support to all affected students, including, but not limited to, physical and psychological needs and ongoing monitoring and recovery support.

‘Restorative sessions’ or similar approaches are not an appropriate intervention for situations that involve physical restraint or seclusion.

Schools may need to:

  • consider what steps can be taken to promote whole of school student safety and wellbeing
  • provide support to individual students. parents/carers must be notified of any support services offered to their child
  • refer students and their families to specialist support services, including professional support services.

Provide support to staff

Support must be provided to staff following an incident of physical restraint or seclusion.

Mental wellbeing support is available to school staff and Health, Wellbeing and Inclusion Workforces following an incident involving physical restraint or seclusion.

The Work-related violence in schools post-incident checklist (PDF)External Link is designed to support the wellbeing impacts of school staff when they are responding to an incident involving behaviours that are violent, aggressive, or otherwise pose a safety risk.

The Employee Wellbeing Response Team can connect schools with training, supports and services they need for complex employee safety and wellbeing issues. The team can be contacted via employee.wellbeing.response.team@education.vic.gov.au.

Professional counselling is available to all staff via the Employee Assistance Program.


Document the incident

Document the incident

Schools are required to document every incident of physical restraint or seclusion.

A record of the incident must be added to the Computerised Administrative System Environment for Schools (CASES21).

Records must be made as soon as possible following the incident and include:

  • the name of the student(s) and staff member(s) involved
  • date, time, and location of the incident
  • names of witnesses (staff and other students)
  • details of the incident of physical restraint or seclusion (a brief factual account)
  • any action taken to de-escalate the situation
  • the reason why physical restraint or seclusion was used
  • the duration of the physical restraint or seclusion
  • whether anyone sustained an injury
  • immediate post incident actions, such as first aid or contact with emergency services
  • details of any post-incident support provided or organised including contact with the student's parent/carer.

Documentation associated with any hazard or incident must be retained according to the Department’s Records Management — School Records Policy.


Reflect on, review and learn from the physical restraint or seclusion incident

Reflect on, review and learn from the physical restraint or seclusion incident

Reflect and review

It is the principal’s responsibility to review each incident of physical restraint and seclusion as appropriate depending on the severity of an incident. A review may require the principal to liaise with area or regional workforces, participate in, and support, a school-based review, liaise with external agencies and ensure response actions are implemented.

The purpose of reflecting on, and reviewing, a physical restraint or seclusion incident is to reduce the risk of such occurrences happening in the future and/or identifying new strategies or interventions, not to apportion blame or to discipline students or staff.

A structured process that reviews the actions taken during an incident can reduce the use of restrictive practices.

It is suggested that a review take place between 3 and 5 working days of an incident. Refer to: Guide for Conducting a School-Based ReviewExternal Link .

Staff involved in the incident, including witnesses, must be involved in the school-based review.

If appropriate, the student must also be involved, asked how they would like to contribute and who they would like present at the review. If appropriate, parents/carers of the student/s can be invited to participate.

A review of student behaviour that has caused physical harm (to the student or someone else) and necessitated the use of physical restraint or seclusion must address the underlying cause or purpose of the student’s behaviour.

Planning for the future

Following a school-based review school staff will be in a good position to make informed decisions about whether to:

  • develop or modify risk management, safety, behaviour support plans
  • develop school-wide positive and preventative strategies
  • modify or intensify support for individual student/s
  • source training and support to assist staff working closely with student/s.

If the school is finding it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of students and if difficult incidents are occurring more frequently, the principal may need to seek support from Student Support Services or their Health and Wellbeing Key Contact.


Professional development

Professional development

Restraint and Seclusion in Victorian Government Schools eLearning Module, Code DET-828-1

This eLearning module introduces the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and aims to improve staff understanding of physical restraint and seclusion and their compliance with reporting requirements.

All corporate and schools staff, assigned an Employee ID in eduPay, can access the online learning module.

The estimated duration of the module is 20 minutes.

The eLearning module is not a substitute for reading the policy and it does not cover every variation of an incident.

Access the online learningExternal Link

Or:

  1. login to eduPay as usual
  2. in your ‘Self Service’ section, select ‘LearnED’
  3. go to ‘Find Learning’ to search the catalogue, to add learning to your plan, enrol or launch the Online Learning
  4. search for ‘restraint’ in the ‘Course Catalogue’.

Annual Arc Digital Hub professional development sessions

  • Free, virtual, multiple dates
  • The estimated duration of the sessions is 45 minutes
  • For Primary, Secondary, School Leaders, Middle Leaders, Graduate Teachers, Special, Special Developmental and Specialist Teachers
  • To register, visit ArcExternal Link and search ‘restraint’

Protective intervention training

Protective intervention training helps school staff to prevent and manage behaviours of concern while reducing the need for physical interventions; de-escalate situations involving aggressive or violent behaviour and ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

If a school considers student challenging behaviours to pose a risk to staff safety and are likely to need to use protective interventions during their work, the school should seek guidance and appropriate training to reduce risk where risk is foreseeable. Protective intervention training is one of the many department training options available to schools.

The department provides quality assured and department-funded protective intervention training through Therapeutic Engagement Support Services Association Inc (TESSA)External Link and Resolution EducationExternal Link .

There are 2 options for accessing protective intervention training at your school:

  • Download and submit an Expression of interest form (PDF)External Link to safer.school.communities@education.vic.gov.au to receive funding from the department to cover the costs of training from TESSA or Resolution Education.
    • For assistance in filling out the form, your school can contact the central OHS Advisory Service at safety@education.vic.gov.au or call 1300 074 715.
    • Your school will be notified of the outcome of the EOI and will be contacted to confirm a booking.
  • Directly procure training from a training provider of your choice.
    • Your school does not need to use TESSA or Resolution Education to provide protective intervention training. Schools can directly procure training in line with the Procurement – Schools policy.
    • However, your school must cover the costs of this training and make sure the training provider used complies with department policies and guidelines, including the Restraint and Seclusion policy and guidance.

The principal behaviour support adviser

The principal behaviour support adviser

The Principal Behaviour Support Adviser (PBSA) is responsible for:

  • identifying and monitoring changes in requirements and obligations in relation to restraint and seclusion of students
  • providing advice to schools, and supporting their compliance, via policies, guidelines, and professional development
  • monitoring and reviewing the operation of management mechanisms across schools and the department
  • identifying actual or potential non-compliance.

The PBSA provides reports to department executives and the department committee tasked with overseeing physical restraint and seclusion.

The PBSA’s responsibilities allow the PBSA to:

  • request information from area or regional staff about actions taken in response to physical restraint or seclusion reports by schools. In the case of an investigation into a physical restraint or seclusion incident, the PBSA or delegate will inform the school principal and SEIL of all activities underway or planned.
  • contact or enter a school upon forming a reasonable opinion that a student may be, or may have been previously, subject to a restrictive practice. Prior to visiting a school, the PBSA will advise the principal of his/her intention and make reasonable attempts to visit at a mutually suitable time.
  • review and take copies of any document which relates to the support of a student or the use of a restrictive practice
  • talk to any member of school staff involved in the support of a student that has or may have been restrained or secluded.

The PBSA and data

The PBSA:

  • produces restraint and seclusion data reports
  • provides data to regional directors and executive directors school support
  • discusses restraint and seclusion data with regional executive teams upon invitation
  • liaises with inclusion, access and participation managers on restraint and seclusion data and regional initiatives
  • provides advice and assistance to area executive directors and senior education improvement leaders to address restraint and seclusion practices in schools.

The PBSA will access physical restraint and seclusion data through eduSafe Plus.

The data may influence policy, programs for students and the provision of professional development for schools.

The PBSA may choose to investigate anomalies or trends in restraint and seclusion data at any time. This includes data that differs significantly from other observations and any upwards or downwards changes in a data.

Analysis of this data – state, region, area, network, school, and student levels – will be provided to the department committee tasked with overseeing restraint and seclusion as well as regional directors and executive directors school support.

Physical restraint and seclusion data may be provided to independent external agencies.

Referral to the PBSA

The Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) may refer a report of an incident of physical restraint or seclusion to the PBSA for advice or consultation for one or more of the following concerns:

  • high severity rated incidents which may or may not include physical restraint or seclusion
  • high or low volume reports
  • incorrect reporting of physical restraint or seclusion.

ISOC may also refer patterns of reporting which raise concern to the PBSA for advice or consultation.

Area or regional teams may refer any report of physical restraint or seclusion to the PBSA for advice or consultation for one or more of the following concerns:

  • compliance with the policy and guidelines
  • high or low volume reports
  • interpretation and/or application of policy and guidelines
  • complex student support arrangements.

It is the responsibility of all other department business units to inform the PBSA of repeated or unreported incidents of physical restraint or seclusion as soon as practicable.

Members of the general public, parent/carers of current and past students and external stakeholders may refer concerns about compliance with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy using the department’s complaints processExternal Link .

The PBSA is not obliged to accept every request for advice or discussion. In the case of not accepting a referral, the PBSA will assist the person making the request in redirecting their inquiry to a more appropriate business unit.


Department roles and responsibilities

Department roles and responsibilities

The below roles have specific responsibility in the collection, monitoring of and response to, physical restraint and seclusion data.

Security and Emergency Management Division

The Security and Emergency Management Division collects data on restraint and seclusion use in schools consistent with the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and provides the principal behaviour support adviser (PBSA) with access to the data.

Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC)

  • ISOC call-takers follow the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines, to accurately record incidents as physical restraint, seclusion, or protective physical intervention
  • Triages incidents according to their severity
  • Provides reports on incidents
  • Seeks the advice and assistance of the PBSA as required

Regional directors

  • Distribute restraint and seclusion data provided by the PBSA to area executive directors and others as required
  • Schedule discussions of restraint and seclusion at regional executive team meetings
  • Invite the PBSA to discuss restraint and seclusion data and regional initiatives

School support executive directors

  • Distribute restraint and seclusion data provided by regional directors to inclusion, access and participation managers and others as required
  • Act in collaboration with Regional Directors

Inclusion, access, and participation managers

Coordinate regional actions to address restraint and seclusion data provided by School Support Executive Directors.

Area executive directors

  • Provide restraint and seclusion data provided by regional directors to senior education improvement leaders
  • Identify data requiring further investigation and respond to incidents of physical restraint or seclusion in collaboration with the PBSA as required

Senior education improvement leaders

  • Provide support to schools as needed based on restraint and seclusion data provided by area executive directors
  • Seek the advice and assistance of the PBSA as required

Definitions for restraint and seclusion

Definitions for restraint and seclusion

The following definitions are provided to support schools to understand and implement the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines.

Behaviours of concern
Behaviours of concern are behaviours that can cause physical harm to the person or any other person.

Behaviour support plan (BSP)
A BSP is a document that addresses the challenging behaviour of a student, and outlines strategies to improve their behaviour. A BSP is based on an assessment of the function of the behaviour and primarily uses proactive and preventative strategies which are designed to help the student develop new skills. Restraint and seclusion cannot be included as interventions in a BSP in Victorian government schools.

Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA)
A BCBA is certified by the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board to provide behaviour analysis services. BCBAs are independent practitioners who work with a variety of people to teach new skills and/or change existing behaviours of concern. BCBAs supervise the work of others who implement behaviour-analytic interventions.

Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst (BCaBA)
A BCaBA is certified by the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board to provide behaviour analysis services under the supervision of a BCBA. BCaBAs may supervise the work of Registered Behaviour Technicians.

Chemical restraint
Chemical restraint is the intentional use of medication, including pills, tablets, needles and liquids, primarily to control or subdue a student’s behaviour.

Child abuse
Child abuse can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, grooming, emotional or psychological harm, neglect, or family violence.

Child Safe Standards
Child safety encompasses matters related to protecting all children from child abuse, managing the risk of child abuse, providing support to a child at risk of child abuse, and responding to incidents or allegations of child abuse.

Corporal punishment
Corporal punishment is any action which inflicts, or is intended to inflict, physical pain or discomfort on the child as punishment.

Duty of care
Duty of care refers to school staff’s legal obligation to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of reasonably foreseeable harm to students.

eduSafe Plus
eduSafe Plus is a streamlined system for the reporting of student and staff incidents, critical incidents, hazards and sick bay in schools.

Emergency
Emergency refers to a sudden state of danger requiring immediate action to prevent or manage an imminent risk of serious harm to a person or persons, risk to life, health, property, or environment.

Holding
Holding is a practice that is without physical force, where the purpose is providing comfort or stability. Clinical holding is a planned practice of positioning a person that allows clinical staff to provide essential healthcare or personal care. Clinical holding is not to be used for students who are unwilling to cooperate or who refuse to consent to vaccinations on school premises.

Integrated Reports and Information System (IRIS)
The Department’s online incident management system where incidents are logged by the Security Services Unit, a 24/7 call centre for schools.

Immediate/imminent
'Immediate' is happening right away, instantly, with no delay while ‘imminent’ is about to happen, occur, or take place very soon.

ISOC
Incident Support and Operations Centre.

Immunisation
Immunisation means becoming immune to a disease because of receiving a vaccination and is important for the prevention and control of infectious diseases.

Justified
In the context of the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines, 'justified' means having a good or legitimate reason.

Mechanical restraint
Mechanical restraint is the use of a device to prevent, restrict or subdue a person's movement for the primary purpose of controlling that person's behaviour. For more information about mechanical restraint, refer to the Mechanical restraint guidance (DOCX)External Link available on the Resources tab.

Physical restraint
Physical restraint is the use of physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue the movement of a student’s body or part of their body. Students are not free to move away when they are being physically restrained.

Problem/challenging/maladaptive behaviour
Behaviour that limits or impedes the learning of a student or another student’s academic, social, communicative, emotional, and adaptive behaviour skills. Refer to 'behaviours of concern' definition.

Proportionate
In the context of the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines, proportionate means acknowledging and balancing difference in size or scale, such as the height and size of a staff member with the height and size of a student or acknowledging and balancing difference in type, such as degree of force used for a type of behaviour.

Protective physical interventions
Protective physical interventions are interventions involving physical contact that serve to block, deflect, or redirect a student's actions, or disengage from a student's grip, but from which a student can move freely away. For example, using your arm to block a student from hitting you or any other person, breakaway techniques to disengage from an inappropriate grip.

Protective physical interventions should not be confused with physical restraint.

Reasonable
In the context of the Restraint and Seclusion Policy and Guidelines, reasonable means:

  • proportionate to the risk of harm
  • discontinued once the risk of harm has dissipated
  • respectful of the student’s dignity.

Restorative practice
Restorative practice seeks to repair relationships that have been damaged, including those damaged through bullying. It does this by bringing about a sense of remorse and restorative action on the part of the offender and forgiveness by the victim.

Risk management plan (RMP)
An RMP assists the principal and school staff to define a range of actions to ensure staff can safely provide teaching and support to a student whose behaviours may pose a risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, students and others at the school.

Safety plan
A safety plan addresses the changes actioned by staff within the school to promote physical and psychological safety. A safety plan addresses the environmental changes needed within the school (for example, removing scissors, staffing arrangements) and responses to behaviour (for example, how to keep the student, staff working with the student, and others in the school community safe, what to do and when to modify actions).

Seclusion
Seclusion refers to leaving a student alone in a room or area from which they are prevented from leaving by a barrier or another person. This includes situations where a door is locked as well as where the door is blocked by other objects or held closed by another person.

Seclusion rooms or areas
Rooms or areas designed, or used solely or primarily, for the purpose of seclusion are not permitted in Victorian government schools.

The Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) does not permit the construction, renovation, or alteration of spaces for the purpose of seclusion.

Self-injurious behaviour (SIB)
SIB is any behaviour, initiated by the individual, which directly results in physical harm to that individual.

Sensory rooms and areas
A sensory room or area is a controlled and intentionally created space that provides multi-sensory resources to support a student’s sensory needs to enable them to engage in learning.

Time-out
Time-out is part of a planned response where a student is explicitly taught new behaviours (such as functional communication skills) to replace behaviours of concern. Students must have freedom to move to and from the area.

Vaccination
Vaccination means receiving a vaccine, either via an injection with a needle or receiving a vaccine orally to protect you from a specific disease.


Resources

Resources

Policy resources for schools

Support resources for schools

Professional development

Information for students and parents/carers

Information for parents/carers – translations


Reviewed 04 March 2020