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Specialist Schools put Student Safety and Care first

Special Educational Principals Association of NZ (SEPANZ) Press Release

Specialist schools are at the forefront of supporting some of our most vulnerable and complex learners. We actively teach emotional regulation techniques and use a broad range of trauma informed therapeutic approaches at our schools. Our schools provide affirming environments where the establishment of close nurturing relationships between our staff and our learners is seen as vital to effective teaching and learning.

Despite this proactive mahi, on occasion our akonga, like those in all schools, may from time to time reach a point where they or others are at imminent risk of harm. As Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft acknowledges there are still 'crisis situations at schools where staff could intervene with reasonable force to to prevent a genuine risk to a student or teacher'. Becroft's words accurately describe the situations where Specialist Schools may need to use some element of restraint as a last resort. In such a situation, restraint is carried out within the current draft guidelines of the Ministry of Education, and in accordance with the Education and Training Act (2020).

SEPANZ is aware of the reported miscommunication between the Ministry of Education and two Residential Specialist schools, leading to an under-reporting of the use of restraint in these schools. These schools recently received Ministry advice that they were not required to report to MoE on restraint incidents that happened in the student residences,outside of school hours, advice which has subsequently changed. In addition both schools have had the independent agency Standards and Monitoring Services SAMS (experts in residential care for the disabled) review their schools and both received extremely positive reviews. This is not required but both schools do this to ensure an outside agency assesses their processes and practices in terms of residential care. As for all specialist schools the wellbeing and safety of Students and Staff are our priorities at all times.

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