The Use of Physical Intervention in School Including Positive Handling

February 2020 | Pending Approval | Date for review: February 2021


The use of reasonable force is, and should remain, the last resort to safeguard a young person. When using reasonable force, the paramount elements that inform any physical intervention are that:

  • it is reasonable,
  • it is proportionate and
  • it is necessary.
  • It is in the best interests of the child/young person
  • It is safe

It is a given that all other techniques to de-escalate should have been considered, implemented where appropriate, and ultimately exhausted. As always, a physical intervention must be considered a final and last resort response, where issues of safety dictate that there are no available options left.

Co-op Academy Walkden students need to be safe and encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour. The vast majority will behave well, but some (generally only a few and very occasionally) lose control and need someone else to step in. They need to know we are able to control them safely and confidently. Our pupils nearly always respond well to the school rules and conventions. Situations in which physical intervention may be needed are therefore likely to be relatively rare.

Staff must be clear about what options are open to them when all the normal systems have failed, or when there is a clear emergency in which, for example, talking calmly to someone in danger is irrelevant. They need to be free of undue worries about the risks of legal action against them if they use appropriate physical interventions.

School staff have the legal power to use reasonable force, and lawful use of this power will provide a defence to any related criminal prosecution or other legal action. Senior staff at Co-op Academy Walkden will support staff in the lawful use of this power and will not automatically suspend a member of staff who has been accused of using excessive force.

Co-op Academy Walkden parents need to know that their child, and those who are teaching them, are safe and free from disruptive influences or danger. They also need to know that they will be properly informed if their child is the subject of physical intervention. The school is open to any parental queries about its policy and review.

What is reasonable force?

Reasonable force means using no more force than is needed to control or restrain. Control means either passive contact such as standing between pupils or blocking a pupil’s path, or active physical contact such as leading a pupil by the arm from a classroom. Restraint means to hold back physically, for example, if used on two pupils who refuse to stop fighting.

Co-op Academy Walkden staff will always try to avoid using physical intervention and will regard it as a last resort. We provide a properly planned and differentiated curriculum that provides appropriate levels of challenge to all pupils, and maintain an effective school behaviour policy that is known and understood by all staff and pupils.

Reasonable force will be used as a last resort, either after all other approaches have been tried, or in situations of clear danger or extreme urgency. The vast majority of crisis situations can be dealt with through calm, dignified and skilled intervention and de-escalation. (The use of non-confrontational approaches and understanding of messages received from body language are vital).

We utilise only the minimum force required to resolve the situation safely. We will always aim to respond to a developing situation by taking into account the personal circumstances, age and understanding of the child or young person.

De-esculation Techniques

Except in cases where there is immediate danger, we would normally try other ways of resolving or de-escalating a situation. These could include:

  1. Calmly re-stating the rules and expectations for the situation;
  2. Removing other pupils from the situation who may be at risk through being present;
  3. Use of physical proximity to influence and reassure;
  4. Encouraging the pupil to withdraw to a safer and calmer situation;
  5. Calling another adult for support or to take over.

Who may use reasonable force and when?

The law allows all members of school staff, including temporary or supply staff, to have the legal power to use reasonable force. It can also apply to people whom the Principal has temporarily put in charge of pupils, such as unpaid volunteers.

Reasonable force can be used to:

  • Stop a pupil committing a criminal offence (including behaving in a way that would be an offence if the pupils were not under the age of criminal responsibility);
  • Prevent a pupil injuring themselves, others or staff (including fights);
  • Prevent serious damage to property including the pupil’s own property;
  • Prevent a pupil behaving unsafely on a school event or trip, potentially putting themselves or others at risk;
  • Stop a pupil leaving a classroom if there is a concern they could hurt or disrupt others;
  • Keep a pupil safe when at risk of harming themselves through physical outbursts.


If more than minor physical intervention is judged to be necessary, the teacher or adult can call for help by alerting Pupil Services, Main Reception, or the staff on the SLT duty rota. If possible staff should:

  • Send for the assistance of a qualified Team Teach teacher. Two support assistants working together without a teacher should only be used as an extreme last resort.
  • Remove other pupils from the scene if possible;
  • Continue to talk calmly to the pupil explaining what will happen, and under what circumstances the physical intervention will cease (avoiding any suggestion of threat);
  • Use the minimum force necessary and cease the intervention as soon as it is judged safe.

What is positive handling?

Reasonable force is not defined legally in isolation. It must be justified as appropriate by the circumstances. We use only the minimum force that is needed to restore safety or appropriate behaviour and we take account of the age, understanding and gender of the pupil. An uncaring attitude is likely to provoke students. The approach recommended is:

  • At least two members of staff
  • Minimum force and time
  • Maximum care and control
  • Last resort – after use of behavioural management strategies

Acceptable forms of intervention in this school:

  • leading or guiding a pupil by the hand or arm, or shepherding them with a hand in the centre of the back;
  • holding a pupil who has lost control until they are calm and safe;
  • physically moving between and separating two pupils;
  • guiding a student in a particular direction;
  • preventing immediate risk of injury, any necessary action that is consistent with the concept of ‘reasonable force’; for example to prevent a pupil running into a busy road or hitting or hurting someone;
  • the use of specific restrictive holds in extreme circumstances.

It is also acceptable for doors to be locked to ensure pupil safety; as long as a member of staff is always with the pupils in such circumstances (care needs to be taken here regarding Health and Safety Fire Regulations). Staff may move, defend themselves, lead, restrain or block someone, bearing in mind the whole time their own safety as well as that of others and of the child being restrained.

It is unacceptable and likely to be illegal, or grounds for disciplinary action, for staff to use any physical intervention designed to cause pain or injury including:

  • any form of corporal punishment, slapping, punching or kicking;
  • holding by the neck or collar, or otherwise restricting the ability to breathe;
  • holding by the hair or an ear;
  • twisting or forcing limbs against a joint;
  • tripping up a pupil or holding an arm out at neck or head height to stop them;
  • holding a pupil face down on the ground or sitting on them;
  • shutting or locking a pupil in a room, except in extreme situations whilst summoning support.

Staff should also avoid touching or holding a pupil in a way that might be considered indecent. The dignity of pupils is vital, and we need to foster their self-respect.

NB – In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to use reasonable force on intruders from outside the school community. (Again use de-escalation techniques first) The police may need to be called in extreme situations.

Planning for use of reasonable force (Positive Handling Plan)

In certain cases, a Positive Handling Plan (Appendix 1) will be created for a child. This would happen when there is a foreseeable risk that a pupil’s behaviour could require the use of reasonable force. For example:

  • A student where information has been received (Primary transition, BAC information, SEN etc) which suggests reasonable force may need to be used.
  • A student who has previously been involved in an incident requiring reasonable force.

This plan aims to help pupils to avoid provoking situations, help them find success and minimise their frustration. It will develop our own skills and help us to manage potential difficulties if we spot them early enough. A Positive handling Plan will:

  • involve the parents and the pupil to gain their views and to ensure that they are clear about what specific action the school might need to take;
  • manage the pupil (e.g. reactive strategies to de-escalate a conflict, at what stage and what type of holds to be used):
  • identify key staff who should know exactly what action they should be taking. Any member of staff who may have to use a physical intervention should always be fully briefed about the child in question, and it is best if they are well known to the child.

After the use of reasonable force

Following an incident involving the use of reasonable force, the pupil should be taken to a quiet place such as:

  • Principal’s or other SLT member’s Office
  • Behaviour Provision
  • Head of Year Office
  • Hive
  • Other appropriate and safe setting

Following a significant incident of physical intervention, when a pupil has resisted or challenged and force has been used, the teacher or adult responsible should, as soon as possible, inform the Vice Principal, Pastoral. We acknowledge that such events are stressful for both pupils and staff and both parties will need time to recover, with the chance of debriefing and resolving the situation.

Time should also be spent after the incident to:-

  • discuss the incident with the pupil. The aim is for the student to learn from the incident so that Positive Handling is not needed in the future. Monitor the student carefully for 90 minutes after the incident to check their emotional wellbeing.
  • interview staff involved and any other witnesses;
  • inform the pupil’s parents/carers and social worker if relevant by phone call and follow up letter. (Appendix 4)
  • record any disagreements expressed by the pupil or adults about the event;
  • take any appropriate further action, liaising with LEA, Governors or Unions as appropriate, and acting within the LEA’s Child Procedures.

Recording the use of reasonable force

A log of the incident will be recorded by the member of staff concerned in the Physical Intervention Bound and Numbered Book, which is kept in the office of the Vice Principal, Pastoral Leadership.

A full report will be written using a Physical Intervention Record Form (PIF: Appendix 2) within 24 hours of the reasonable force being administered. The report will contain the key details needed regarding the incident, including details of any injury to any person or damage to property. An unfortunate consequence of restrictive physical intervention is that the student may suffer minor injury to prevent a major injury or safety concern: First Aid should be given in such a situation. The sheet must be signed and dated by the member of staff and countersigned if possible by another member of staff who was at the incident.


Co-op Academy Walkden staff need to know how to safely and confidently manage inappropriate behaviour. All staff receive Behaviour for Learning training as part of their Coop Academy Walkden induction and regular INSET is delivered on this subject throughout the academic year. In addition to this, key staff (see Appendix 4) have received Team Teach training in the use of de-escalation and reasonable force. Training and refreshers will be available, when needed, in use of reasonable force.

Appendices can be found in the PDF version of this policy