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Independent investigation into Pembrokeshire Pupil Referral Unit conducted in January 2010, released under FOI request


Pembrokeshire County CouncilIndependent Review Pupil Referral Unit

January 2010

Pamela Munday Sheila Booth1

Independent investigation Pembrokeshire Pupil Referral UnitIntroductionBackground to the Independent Investigation 1. In June 2009, an independent advocate, who was working with a previous pupil of the Pembrokeshire Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), reported to Pembrokeshire Child Care Services that he and other pupils at the unit had been locked in a room (called the time-out room) when they were out of control. 2. A strategy meeting was held with the police the same day and the police agreed to undertake a single agency investigation the following day (a Saturday). The young man and his family were interviewed. The PRU was visited the following Monday, 15th June 2009, and files and CCTV footage taken. The manager was interviewed about processes and the time-out room viewed. It was quickly decided at a Senior Management level that the time-out room would not be used and the room was locked and the keys returned to senior officers. 3. While initially it was agreed that the enquiries would be conducted under the procedures for professional abuse, within a short time it was agreed to move to the procedures for multiple and organised abuse. meetings were held. Enquiries were undertaken. 4. By September 2009, it was agreed that no further action should be taken with regard to the criminal investigation. However, at a Senior Strategy meeting held on 10th September 2009, it was decided that the educational Directorate would link with the Personnel Service in order to initiate a without prejudice investigation of the issues raised so far. Whilst this internal investigation would be led by an A series of Senior Strategy


independent educationalist, that person would be supported by an independent person with safeguarding experience. The Investigators and their Brief 5. Pamela Munday, the retired head of Milford Haven Comprehensive School and Sheila Booth, a previous Head of Childrens Services with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, agreed to undertake a joint investigation. Their brief was to look at leadership and governance matters, relevant operational policies and practices of the Pupil Referral Unit and safeguarding arrangements. The brief specifically asked them to: Investigate further the specific use of the time-out room and any further operational practices that have a bearing on safeguarding issues. Analyse the evidence and garner any further information they may need to draw reliable conclusions including interviewing staff. Examine processes and procedures so as to ensure that any policy or practice deficiencies are identified and, where necessary, improvements can be put in place. Identify any appropriate conclusions including recommendations for action. Interview any further personnel as necessary. Methodology 6. All relevant and available staff at the PRU and Child Care Services were interviewed. Senior managers from both departments and the Detective Inspector in the Police Protection Unit with responsibility for childrens safeguarding were also seen. Relevant legislation and guidance was consulted, childrens files in both the PRU and Child Care Services and minutes of meetings were read. Policies and procedures were examined and CCTV footage viewed. The Welsh Assembly Government were contacted for advice and clarification.


Legislation and Guidance7. It is important that the relevant legislation and guidance and the confusion that exists is understood. Education legislation and guidance in relation to the management of behaviour in schools is not clear. 8. The Education Act 1996 (as modified by the Education Act 1997) is the only certain piece of legislation implemented in Wales. The 1997 Act, in Section 4 says: After section 550 of the [1996 c. 56.] Education Act 1996 there shall be inserted Power to restrain pupils 550A Power of members of staff to restrain pupils (1) A member of the staff of a school may use, in relation to any pupil at the school, such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purpose of preventing the pupil from doing (or continuing to do) any of the following, namely (a) (b) committing any offence, causing personal injury to, or damage to the property of, any person (including the pupil himself), or (c) engaging in any behaviour prejudicial to the maintenance of good order and discipline at the school or among any of its pupils, whether that behaviour occurs during a teaching session or otherwise. (2) Subsection (1) applies where a member of the staff of a school is (a) (b) on the premises of the school, or elsewhere at a time when, as a member of its staff, he has lawful control or charge of the pupil concerned; but it does not authorise anything to be done in relation to a pupil which constitutes the giving of corporal punishment within the meaning of section 548.


(3) Subsection (1) shall not be taken to prevent any person from relying on any defence available to him otherwise than by virtue of this section. (4) In this section member of the staff, in relation to a school, means any teacher who works at the school and any other person who, with the authority of the head teacher, has lawful control or charge of pupils at the school; offence includes anything that would be an offence but for the operation of any presumption that a person under a particular age is incapable of committing an offence. 9. This was clearly implemented in Wales. There is a later Act, the Education and Inspection Act 2006, which in Section 93 outlines the powers of members of staff to use force. There is very little difference to the wording of this section, which is attached in full as appendix 1. It was clearly intended that this act be implemented in Wales. However, the Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed that no commencement order was made for Section 93 of the Act and it is therefore not implemented in Wales. It is planned to begin consultation in the near future with an intention to implement Section 93 for the school year 2010/2011, when new guidance will also be issued. 10. Guidance, The Use of Reasonable Force to Control or Restrain People, was issued by the then Welsh Office under Circular 37/98 in December 1998. The Welsh Assembly Government have confirmed that this guidance is still in force in Wales. The guidance uses the legal framework that is found in Section 550A of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by the Education Act 1997). It goes on to say that there is no legal definition of reasonable force and what is reasonable will always depend on particular circumstances. The circumstances of the incident must warrant it, the degree of force must be proportionate and reasonableness may also depend on the age, understanding, physical maturity and sex of the pupil. It gives a list of situations where the use of reasonable force may be


appropriate. It also lists some examples of the form of physical intervention which may be applicable which include: Staff physically interposing themselves between pupils or blocking a pupils path. Holding, pushing, pulling, leading by the arm. Shepherding a pupil away by placing a hand in the centre of the back. Using classroom furniture to restrict movement.

11. It also lists unacceptable practices. Nowhere is there a reference to the use of seclusion or locked doors, (unlike the Department For Education and Skills guidance referred to below). 12. In March 2005, Welsh Assembly Government issued guidance, Framework for Restrictive Physical Intervention Policy and Practice. The guidance was issued for professionals who worked with children, young people, adults and older people in health, education and social care settings. However, enquiries have established that this was not issued under Section 7 of the Local Government and Social Services Act 1970 and therefore is not statutory guidance. The authors of this report understand that it had been the intention of Welsh Assembly Government to issue detailed and specific guidance but this has yet to be done. In this guidance the term restrictive physical interventions is defined as: direct physical contact between persons where reasonable force is positively applied against resistance, either to restrict movement or mobility or to disengage from harmful behaviour displayed by an individual. 13. There were a number of guidance documents issued by the Department for Education and Skills including Guidance on Restrictive Physical Interventions for People with Learning Disability and Autistic Spectrum Disorder, in Health, Education and Social Care Settings. It is worth repeating the first paragraph of this guidance.


This guidance on the use of restrictive physical interventions in special schools, care and health settings, is issued jointly by the Department for Education and Skills/Department of Health. It stands as guidance under Section 7 of the Local Authority and Social Services Act 1970; and as advice to support the implementation of Section 550A of the Education Act 1996, in particular in special school settings catering for pupils with severe behavioural difficulties associated with learning difficulties and/or autistic spectrum disorders. Additionally, this guidance will have relevance for working with pupils with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. Whilst the principles that underpin this guidance will have wider relevance and implications for children in mainstream schools (and LEAs may wish to bring the guidance to the attention of mainstream schools within their area), this guidance is not intended to cover all forms of extreme behaviours in all schools. 14. The guidance focused on the need for provider agencies to have effective policies, procedures and training for staff who work with people who may have behavioural episodes where restrictive