Commissioner’s first legal investigation finds children and young people’s rights are at risk of being violated due to lack of clear restraint and seclusion policies in schools across Scotland

Date: 18th December 2018
Category: Restraint, School exclusions


Following an investigation into ‘Restraint and Seclusion in Scotland's Schools’, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland’s new report considers the existence and impact of local authority policies and recording mechanisms and highlights the rights issues at stake for children and young people.  

Key findings from the report include:  

  • Four out of thirty-two local authorities had no policies or guidance in place to govern the safe and lawful use of restraint and seclusion.  
  • Even where policies did exist, children and young people were rarely involved in the development of these documents. 
  • Only 18 local authorities record all incidents of restraint and seclusion within their area. Four local authorities do not record any incidents at all. Those that did record and report data, identified 2,674 incidents relating to 386 children across the school year 2017-18.    
  • Children’s views are not routinely recorded by most local authorities following an incident where restraint and/or seclusion is used.  
  • Only 12 local authorities were able to provide full or partial data on the number of children with disabilities or other additional support needs who had been the subject of restraint or seclusion in the previous year. 

The report also highlights that there is no national policy to provide clear guidance to local authorities to ensure consistently safe and lawful practices with regards to restraint and seclusion in schools across Scotland. Furthermore, the Scottish Government does not record or hold data on these practices, despite calls from the UN to do so, which means there is insufficient evidence available to know how many incidents occur across Scotland each year and what the circumstances are in which these incidents happen.  

The Commissioner’s report raises concerns around the extent to which children’s human rights are being breached due to inconsistent policies across local authorities and a lack of data held at national level about the prevalence of incidents of restraint and seclusion 

The Commissioner sets out a series of recommendations amongst which he calls for the Scottish Government to publish and embed a rights-based national policy and guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools which includes specific reference to the relevant articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and other relevant international human rights instruments.