Scottish Children’s commissioner report on restraint and seclusion in schools

On Friday 14/12/18, the Scottish Children’s Commissioner is to publish a report on restraint and seclusion in schools. Parent, Founder and CEO of Positive & Active Behaviour Support Scotland, Beth Morrison, writes her response to the report below.

The way we treat our children, especially those who have no voice or cannot use words to communicate reflects who we are as a society. We would all challenge using our behaviour if we were not respected and our voices were not heard. We must find another way of supporting children and meeting their needs in schools instead of locking them away in a world of frustration and not being heard. I have been campaigning for 8 long years on this issue, so I am extremely grateful to the Scottish Parliamentary Petitions Committee and the Children’s Commissioner for this report and trust that moving forward, we truly will get it right for every child, including our most vulnerable.

In the last two years, I have been contacted by 605 families whose children have been subjected to the barbaric use of restraint and seclusion. The majority are in Scotland (around 400) but I have cases from 124 different council areas covering Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.

I have lots of figures, but I also have 605 heart-breaking stories to back this up!

Of those 605 children, many of them have been restrained and/or secluded on multiple occasions. All the children have additional support needs ranging from Autism to Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities and many children are completely non-verbal.

Many children were left with horrific levels of injuries like bruising, abrasions and even broken teeth!

I also believe that there is evidence of restraint and seclusion being used to punish children with disabilities.

Of the 605 children, not even one is neurotypical, they ALL have disabilities.

The youngest child I have in my case studies is just 2 years old.

4.5% of the children were under 5.

17% were 5 years old and a huge 26% are just 6 years old!

I have no boys over the age of 13, and only a few (single figures) of girls aged from 13 to 16 years old. Therefore, the evidence suggests that these things are not happening to big, burly, out of control, violent teenagers, it’s little children at primary school who are most likely to be subjected to this.

83% of the incidents were NOT recorded. 81% of the injuries were not recorded either.

We had one non-verbal child, aged 6, who was restrained 35 times in two weeks. We’ve had 5 year olds in primary 1 secluded in tiny bare rooms every single day for months on end. The figures and stories are utterly heart-breaking. 

Many children had been in two or more schools by the time they were 10 years old.

Sadly, many children’s injuries were so bad that their parents called the Police and Child Protection. There were criminal investigations, some lasting years, but not a single case has been successfully prosecuted. So, no accountability whatsoever. Families were told by Police and The Procurator Fiscal Service that because their children are non-verbal or have very little communication, they cannot be interviewed and in the absence of the child’s witness testimonies, despite compelling medical and photographic evidence and expert witness reports, the standard of evidence required cannot be met to bring the cases to court for prosecution! My next goal is to campaign for a change in the law.

It’s not surprising that families feel their disabled children have been completely discriminated against, not just in school, but by those organisations who are supposed to uphold our children’s human rights (like the GTCS) and by the Criminal Justice System. Every single door we knocked on was closed.

Remember, every single one of these little souls have disabilities. What does that say about our society?

We should be hanging our heads in shame! 


We will provide a link to the report here once it has been published.