Use of Force to Control

All members of staff who may have to intervene physically with students must clearly understand the options and strategies open to them. They must know what is acceptable and what is not. The Governing Body, Parents and students also need to know that.

Planning for Incidents

If the Academy is aware that a student is likely to behave in a way that may require physical control or restraint, it is sensible to plan how to respond if the situation arises. Such planning may address:

Managing the Student (E.G. Reactive Strategies to De-escalate a Conflict).

  • Involving the parents to ensure that they are clear about what specific action the Academy might need to take.
  • Briefing staff to ensure they know exactly what action they should be taking.
  • Ensuring that additional support can be summoned if appropriate;
  • In some cases particularly in SEN settings, the Academy may also need to take medical advice about the safest way to hold students with specific health needs.

Section 550A of the Education Action 1996 10/98

This section allows teachers and other persons who are authorised (see authorised staff) by the Principal to have control or charge of students to use such force as is reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent a student from doing, or continuing to do any of the following:

  • Committing a criminal offence (including behaving in a way that would be an offence if the student were not under the age of criminal responsibility);
  • Injuring themselves or others;
  • Causing damage to property (including the students own property);
  • Engaging in any behaviour prejudicial to maintaining good order and discipline at the Academy or among any of its students, whether the behaviour occurs in a classroom during a teaching session or elsewhere.

The provision applies when a teacher, or other authorised person, is on the Academy premises and when he or she has lawful control or charge of the student concerned e.g. on a field trip or other authorised out of Academy activity.

Authorised Staff

The Act allows all teachers at Academy to use reasonable force to control or restrain students. It also allows other people to do so, in the same way as teachers, provided they have been authorised by the Principal to have control or charge of students. These might include classroom assistants, caretakers or voluntary helpers including people accompanying students on visits, exchanges or holiday organised by the Academy.

The Principal should identify people, other than teachers, whom they wish to authorise to have control or charge of pupils and therefore be able to use force if necessary. Authorisation may be on a permanent or long term nature, or short term for a specific event such as a Academy trip. The principal should explicitly inform the people concerned and ensure that they are aware of and properly understand what the authorisation entails.

Action in Self-Defence or in an emergency

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against an attack provided they do not use a disproportionate degree of force to do so. Similarly, in an emergency, for example if a student was at immediate risk of injury or on the point of inflicting injury on someone else, any member of staff would be entitled to intervene. The purpose of Section 550A is to make it clear that teachers and other authorised staff, are also entitled to intervene in other, less extreme, situations.

Types of Incidents

There are a wide variety of situations in which reasonable force might be appropriate, or necessary, to control or restrain a student. They will fall into three broad categories:

  • action is necessary in self-defence or because there is an immanent risk of injury;
  • there is a developing risk of injury, or significant damage to property;
  • a student is behaving in a way that is compromising good order and discipline.
Examples of situations that fall within one of the first two categories are:
  • a student attacks a member of staff, or another student;
  • students are fighting;
  • a student is engaged in, or is on the verge of committing, deliberate damage or vandalism to property,
  • a student is causing, or at risk of causing, injury or damage by accident, by rough play; or by misuse of dangerous materials or objects;
  • a student is running in a corridor or on a stairway in a way in which he or she might have or cause an accident likely to injure him or herself or others;
  • a student absconds from a class or tries to leave Academy (NB this will only apply if a student could be at risk if not kept in the classroom or at Academy).
Examples of situations that fall into the third category are:
  • a student persistently refuses to obey an order to leave a classroom;
  • a student is behaving in a way that is seriously disrupting a lesson.

Reasonable Force

There is no legal definition of 'reasonable force'. So it is not possible to set out comprehensively when it is reasonable to use force, or the degree of force that may reasonably be used. It will always depend on all the circumstances of the case.

There are two relevant considerations:

the use of force can be regarded as reasonable only if the circumstances of the particular incident warrant it. The use of any degree of force is unlawful if the particular circumstances do not warrant the use of physical force.

The degree of force employed must be in proportion to the circumstances of the incident and the seriousness of the behaviour or the consequences it is intended to prevent. Any force used should always be the minimum needed to achieve the desired result.

Whether it is reasonable to use force and the degree of force that could reasonably be employed might also depend on the age, understanding and sex of the student.

Practical considerations

Before intervening physically a teacher should, wherever practicable, tell the student who is misbehaving to stop and what will happen if he or she does not. The teacher should continue attempting to communicate with the student throughout the incident and should make it clear that physical contact or restraint will stop as soon as it ceases to be necessary. A calm and measured approach to a situation is needed and teachers should never give the impression that they have lost their temper or are acting out of anger or frustration or to punish the student.

Sometimes a teacher should not intervene in incidents without help (unless it is an emergency) for example, when dealing with an older student or a physically large student, or more than one student, or if the teacher believes he or she may be at risk of injury. In those circumstances the teacher should remove other students who might be at risk and summon assistance from a colleague or colleagues, or when necessary phone the Police. The teacher should inform the student(s) that he or she has sent for help. Until assistance arrives the teacher should continue to attempt to defuse the situation orally or try to prevent the incident from escalating.

Application of Force

Physical intervention can take several forms. It might involve staff:

  • physically interposing between students;
  • blocking a student's path;
  • holding;
  • pushing;
  • pulling;
  • leading a student by the hand or arm;
  • shepherding a student away by placing a hand in the centre of the back; or;
  • (in extreme circumstances) using more restrictive holds.

In exceptional circumstances where there is an immediate risk of injury, a member of staff may need to take any necessary action that is consistent with the concept of reasonable force - for example to prevent a student hitting someone, or throwing something.

In other circumstances staff should not act in a way that might reasonably be expected to cause injury, for example by:

holding a student around the neck, or by the collar, or in any other way that might restrict the students ability to breathe; slapping, punching or kicking a student; twisting or forcing limbs against a joint; tripping up a student; holding or pulling student buy the hair or ear; holding a student face down on the ground.

Staff should always avoid touching or holding a student in a way that might be considered indecent.

Recording Incidents

It is important that there is a detailed written report for any occasion (except minor or trivial incidents) where force is used. It may help prevent any misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the incident and it will be helpful should there be a complaint.

Academy keeps up-to-date records of all such incidents, in on incident file.

Immediately following any such incident the member of staff concerned should tell the Principal or a Senior Manager and provide a written report as soon as possible afterwards.

This includes:

the name(s) of the student(s) involved and when and where the incident took place; the names of any other staff or student(s) who witnessed the incident; the reason that force was necessary (e.g. to prevent injury to the student, another student or member of staff); how the incident began and progressed, including details of the student's behaviour, what was said by each of the parties, the steps taken to defuse or calm the situation, the degree of force used, how that was applied and for how long; the students response and the outcome of the incident; details of any injury suffered by the student, another student, or a member of staff and of any damage to property.

Staff my find it helpful to seek advice from a senior colleague (or a representative of their professional association) when compiling a report. They should also keep a copy of the report.

Incidents involving the use of force can cause the parents of the student involved great concern. Parents should be informed unless there are particular reasons agreed by the Principal or Assistant Principal (Student Development).


The possibility that a complaint might result in a disciplinary hearing, or a criminal prosecution, or in a civil action brought about by a student or parent, cannot be ruled out. In these circumstances it would be for the disciplinary panel or the Court to decide whether the use and degree of force was reasonable in all circumstances.

Physical Contact With Students in Other Circumstances

There are occasions when physical contact with a student may be proper or necessary other than those covered in Section 550A of the 1996 Act. Some physical contact may be necessary to demonstrate exercises or techniques during PE lessons, sports coaching or CDT, or if a member of staff has to give first aid. Touching may also be appropriate where a student is in distress and needs comforting. Teachers should use their own professional judgement when they feel a student needs this kind of support - as a general rule, this should be avoided, but if necessary, not carried out with a student of the opposite sex in a room with the door closed.

Click the links below to see our behaviour policies.

Behaviour in School
Behaviour on Buses
Use of Force to Control

© Macmillan Academy 2017 | Endeavour Academies Trust