Who can use reasonable force?

  • All members of school staff have a legal power to use reasonable force2.
  • This power applies to any member of staff at the school. It can also apply to people whom the headteacher has temporarily put in charge of pupils such as unpaid volunteers or parents accompanying students on a school organised visit.

2 Section 93, Education and Inspections Act 2006

When can reasonable force be used?

  • Reasonable force can be used to prevent pupils from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property, or from causing disorder.
  • In a school, force is used for two main purposes ¡V to control pupils or to restrain them.
  • The decision on whether or not to physically intervene is down to the professional judgement of the staff member concerned and should always depend on the individual circumstances.
  • The following list is not exhaustive but provides some examples of situations where reasonable force can and cannot be used.

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Schools can use reasonable force to:

  • remove disruptive children from the classroom where they have refused to follow an instruction to do so;
  • prevent a pupil behaving in a way that disrupts a school event or a school trip or visit;
  • 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;
  • prevent a pupil from attacking a member of staff or another pupil, or to stop a fight in the playground; and
  • restrain a pupil at risk of harming themselves through physical outbursts.

Schools cannot:

  • use force as a punishment ¡V it is always unlawful to use force as a punishment.

Power to search pupils without consent

In addition to the general power to use reasonable force described above, headteachers and authorised staff can use such force as is reasonable given the circumstances to conduct a search for the following "prohibited items"3:

  • knives and weapons
  • alcohol
  • illegal drugs
  • stolen items
  • tobacco and cigarette papers
  • fireworks
  • pornographic images
  • any article that has been or is likely to be used to commit an offence, cause personal injury or damage to property.
  • Force cannot be used to search for items banned under the school rules. Separate guidance is available on the power to search without consent ¡V see the ¡¥Further sources of information¡¦ section for a link to this document.

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Expiry or review date

This advice will next be reviewed in spring 2014

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