Five schoolchildren, mixed girls and boys, sit talking in a classroom

Inquiry: how schools are monitoring the use of restraint

Our action

We carried out an inquiry to find out how schools in England and Wales are monitoring, recording and analysing their use of restraint.

What this covers

Our inquiry looked at primary, secondary and special needs schools in England and Wales. We gathered a range of evidence to help us understand:

  1. whether and how these schools are collecting, recording and using data on their use of restraint and restrictive interventions
  2. what schools can learn from places that routinely record, monitor and analyse this data and use it to make changes to their approach

Download the restraint in schools inquiry terms of reference, 86KB (Word)

Download the terms of reference in Welsh: lawr iwytho'r cylch gorchwyl, 87KB (Word)

What is restraint?

Restraint is an action to limit a person's movement, liberty or freedom to act independently.

Restraint can include physical, mechanical and chemical forms of control, coercion and forced isolation. These can also be called ‘restrictive interventions’.

For more information, see our human rights framework for restraint.

Why we are involved

We began our inquiry following widespread concerns about the use of restraint in schools. There is no law requiring schools record these incidents, resulting in a lack of transparency and data on how restraint is being used.

Inquiries are one of our powers under the Equality Act. They can help us to find out more about equality or human rights in a particular sector or about a specific issue.

The result

We found that restraint in schools should be monitored, recorded and analysed with the same rigour as school exclusions, to give greater understanding of:

  • how, where, why and when restraint is used
  • how its use can be minimised

While some schools are doing their best to support their pupils, they need more help to understand:

  • what constitutes restraint
  • what they should record
  • how analysis can help support pupils and staff

We also found that a lot of schools are not being supported with the basic safeguards needed to protect children. This could put them at risk of not meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty.

We have published a report about our findings, including our recommendations for change.

We have also created case studies of good practice that schools can use.

Last updated: 07 Jul 2021