New Department of Education guidelines expected by next summer will tell schools that physically restraining or secluding children must not be used as disciplinary measures.

It said it has been working on the guidance for the past year after Inclusion Ireland yesterday detailed disturbing instances of children with a disability being injured and traumatised by staff practices in mainstream and special schools.

The organisation which advocates for people with disabilities said that, despite previous requests by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the Department of Education had failed to provide best-practice guidelines to introduce guidelines or to introduce reporting and monitoring protocols.

In their absence, said Inclusion Ireland, the scale of the problem remains unknown and children’s developmental and welfare needs are being neglected. It said it is unfair on teachers when best practice includes support and training for staff.

A seminar on the issue yesterday discussed the Inclusion Ireland report that features 14 anonymised case studies of cases outlined by parents of their children being restrained, or isolated in rooms without supervision and often left injured as a result. One parent said the restraint and seclusion her son suffered at school included being locked in a toilet when he was six.

“The guidelines will be underpinned by the principles that such intervention is never used for the purposes of discipline, and that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to de-escalate the situation,” said a spokesperson.

The importance of continued supervision of children during a crisis period, including matters related to behaviour, will also be stressed. The department also expects the guidelines will underline the importance of recording such incidents and how they were managed.

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