Policies and procedures
Your school should have policies and procedures in place to support staff in their management of situations that might involve violence, threatening behaviour or abuse.
The following areas should be covered:
discipline and behaviour
abusive, threatening or violent adult visitors
dealing with offensive weapons and knives
use of reasonable force.
Discipline and behaviour policies
ATL's position is that all discipline and behaviour policies should contain a statement that abuse, threatening behaviour or assaults are unacceptable and will result in appropriate punishment.
The policy must also state clearly that in cases of actual or threatened violence, permanent exclusion will be considered an appropriate sanction.
The governors of maintained schools have a legal responsibility for the conduct of the school. It is their responsibility to produce and periodically review a written statement of general principles dealing with discipline and behaviour.
By law, the school's policy should make clear:
the boundaries of what is acceptable
the hierarchy of sanctions
the arrangements for the clear and consistent application of sanctions
a linked system of rewards for good behaviour.
The policy should promote:
respect for others
intolerance of bullying and harassment
the importance of self-discipline
the difference between "right" and "wrong".
The governing body's written statement of general principles should take account of the needs of all pupils, including any with special educational needs. It should be reviewed regularly and should cover:
the ethos of the school, its values and the boundaries of acceptable behaviour
the school's moral code
positive and constructive rules of conduct
the rewards and punishments, which must be fairly and consistently applied.
The governing body has a duty to ensure that the school follows policies which promote good behaviour and discipline among pupils. It is the headteacher's responsibility to promote good behaviour and discipline in line with the governing body's statement of general principles. The headteacher must decide on the standards of behaviour, the rules of behaviour and how they are to be enforced.
A pupil may appeal against a decision to exclude and the appeal will be considered by a panel set up by the LA. The pupil will have the right to make representations at the hearing before the panel. Where the headteacher has excluded a pupil in accordance with clearly stated provisions in the school's published discipline policy, the government's advice is that the appeal panel should not normally rule that the pupil be reinstated.
Abusive, threatening or violent adults
The school should have a procedure in place which covers:
what to do when an incident arises
who to contact in an emergency, eg within the school, LA or police
who to report the incident to and how
any follow-up action that is necessary
the support available from the employer, such as counselling, occupational health or legal support
liaison with the police whenever necessary.
Dealing with offensive weapons and knives
Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that it is an offence to have a blade or sharply pointed article in a public place without lawful authority, with the exception of a folding pocket knife. The latter is a knife with a cutting edge of no more than three inches and it must be readily foldable at all times.
A school may introduce its own ban on pupils carrying weapons and knives, regardless of the legal exception made for folding pocket knives. The school should have a procedure in place for dealing with the confiscation of articles such as weapons and knives, which clearly sets out arrangements under which designated members of staff (normally a senior manager) are entitled to confiscate.
As soon as you are aware either that a pupil is in possession of an offensive weapon, or that there has been an incident involving an offensive weapon, the following actions should be taken:
immediately inform the designated senior manager - all staff should be aware of who this is
inform the headteacher urgently
staff should not try to deal with the situation alone
the senior manager must decide whether it is necessary to contact the police
the school should consider whether to deal with the matter as a disciplinary issue.
If the senior staff member is certain the pupil or student has the article for entirely innocent reasons and there is no intention to use the item as a weapon, it will not be necessary to contact the police.
For more information, see the section of the website on searching for weapons.
Searching a pupil
An attempted search could exacerbate an already tense and difficult situation. It is important to recognise that searching a pupil is a step that should only be undertaken in exceptional circumstances, and only if you have obtained the pupil's consent. The granting of consent and any subsequent search should be witnessed by a colleague or adult witness. It is preferable for a child's parent to attend if a search is being undertaken.
Any attempt to carry out a search without the pupil's permission may result in an allegation of assault against you. And even though conducting a search with consent from the pupil is within a teacher's authority, it could still result in such an allegation.
If the child or young person refuses to cooperate, you should arrange for the police to be called; take no further action and wait for the police to arrive. However, in exceptional circumstances, you may be left with no choice but to take action immediately. If this is the case, you should speak to the pupil away from other children if at all possible. You should also try to ensure that a colleague or adult witness is present.
If the individual suspected of having an offensive weapon is not a pupil at the school, or if the incident takes place off school premises, ATL's advice is that you should not conduct a search. This should be left to the police.
Confiscation of offensive weapons
When an offensive weapon is confiscated by a member of staff, it is important to give the article to the police as soon as they arrive or arrange for the article to be removed from the premises by a parent. Pending the arrival of the police or a parent, the article should be stored in a secure place.
The school should keep a record of when such articles have been confiscated and returned. Certain items, such as flick knives and knuckle-dusters, should always be handed over to the police.
In the event that a pupil has been found in possession of an offensive weapon, the application of the school's discipline and behaviour policy must be considered. Depending on the particular circumstances, the school may wish to invoke disciplinary sanctions, which might include detention or exclusion on a temporary or permanent basis.
Policies on restraint
It is important that all schools should have a policy about the use of force to control or restrain pupils. All members of staff who may have to intervene physically with pupils must clearly understand the strategies and options open to them. They must know what is acceptable and what is not.
It is essential that members in all settings are fully and properly trained in the powers of staff to restrain pupils, and that training is regularly updated.
For more information, see the section of this website on restraint.
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.