Restrictions which have made some schools ban teachers from hugging or touching children may soon be relaxed.

Teachers, principals and the Teaching Council are all proposing changes that would let teachers use physical force as soon as a child shows signs of being upset and threatening other children.

The current rules, introduced in August 2017 in response to Herald reports of children being locked alone in rooms, allow physical restraint only when the safety of others is “at serious and imminent risk”.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said last year that “the balance is not quite right”. Sources say he is ready to put proposed changes to Cabinet in the next week or two.

Schools have reported 5466 incidents of physical restraint under the new rules up to the end of last term – an average of 13 incidents every school day.

Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association president Pat Newman said reporting each incident was “an absolutely ridiculous waste of time”.

The Teaching Council, the professional body previously known as the Education Council, said this week it had proposed “some changes to the legislation that we believe will better align with the [Teachers’] Code expectation of promoting the wellbeing of all learners and protecting all from harm”.

“Currently the legislation limits physical restraint to situations where there is a risk of serious and imminent harm, which has had the effect of deterring teachers from intervening before a situation gets serious,” it said.

“We are proposing to enable teachers to intervene earlier and to consider the emotional and physical harm of all the learners, as expected in the Code.”


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