September 29, 2016

New guidelines to tackle violence in NZ schools

Before the end of the New Zealand school year, new guidelines will be published by the NZ Ministry of Education detailing how and when teachers can use physical interventions to control students presenting a risk to themselves or others. It is expected the guidelines will cover the use of restraint and seclusion.

Unlike government guidance in the UK, the NZ Education Act teachers currently have no power to restrain violent pupils. In 2012 we reported on the UK's Department for Education (DfE) guidance outlining when use of force can and cannot be used. Permitted uses include:


  • "To prevent pupils from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property, or from causing disorder
  • "To prevent a pupil leaving the classroom where allowing the pupil to leave would risk their safety or lead to behaviour that disrupts the behaviour of others
  • "To prevent a pupil from attacking a member of staff or another pupil, or to stop a fight in the playground
  • "To restrain a pupil at risk of harming themselves through physical outbursts"


We expect any guidance in New Zealand to communicate a similar message to the UK guidance.

On Sunday, Secondary Principals' Association executive member Patrick Walsh told Radio NZ that teachers needed more protection when dealing with difficult, violent situations.

The New Zealand Ministry of Education's Kim Shannon said "Any change to the law, if that is a desirable option, would take some time, and schools need clear advice in the meantime,".

Maybo welcomes evidence-based guidance on the use of force and seclusion in school settings provided it encourages schools to first focus on prevention and communicates clearly that any use of force or seclusion must be an absolute last resort. We work closely with teachers to reduce the risks and impact of challenging behaviour, inside and outside of the classroom. Our training programmes build on the extensive skills and experience school staff already have to give them simple strategies and greater confidence to reduce and manage problem behaviours. Our focus has always been to help educators meet their duty of care and regulatory requirements whilst promoting positive values and relationships and we look forward to reviewing the guidance with the many schools we support in New Zealand. 

Click here for further information on our training in managing challenging behaviours in schools. 

Click here for the UK's current guidance on the use of reasonable force in schools.