You will be aware that on Friday 8th February, our school was closed for staff training. A key part of this day involved staff discussing two key policies aimed at helping to maintain order in the school, making our school a safe place for students and for students to work, thus contributing to the wellbeing of all members of our school community. It was agreed on the day that parents should be fully informed about the nature and impact of these policies.
The first policy that was discussed was the Use of Reasonable Force in school. Unfortunately, there is a commonly held misconception amongst some students and parents that staff in schools are not allowed to have physical contact with the students they work with. Indeed the Department for Education (DFE) advice on this matter, which was re-issued in 2015 states that:
“Schools should NOT have a ‘no contact‘ policy. There is a real risk here that such a policy might place members of staff in breach of their duty of care towards a pupil, or prevent them taking action needed to prevent a pupil causing harm.”
Department of Education: Use of Reasonable Force (2015) p.6
In the everyday hustle and bustle of a big organisation catering for the needs of large numbers of individuals, it is inevitable that physical contact between individuals, including staff and students, will take place. Everyday social interaction between individuals is inevitable and is encouraged. However, on rare occasions, contact between staff and students may have to go beyond this and may necessitate staff using physical force, hence the need for policy guidelines for all staff.
Our school policy on the “Use of Reasonable Force” has been reviewed and is based on the DFE guidelines which strongly suggest that:
“By taking steps to ensure that staff, pupils and parents are clear about when force might be used, the school will reduce the likelihood of complaints being made when force has been used properly.”
Department of Education: Use of Reasonable Force (2015)
In summary, staff can use reasonable force if:
- A criminal offence is being committed
- A student might injure themselves or someone else
- A student is damaging property
- A student’s behaviour is preventing staff from keeping order
However, our policy and DFE guidelines also stress that use of reasonable force is a last resort and should be proportionate to the situation, taking into account any special needs of individuals involved.
There are restrictions on the type of force that can be used, and schools CANNOT use force as a punishment. Schools are also permitted to use reasonable force to search students without consent for ‘prohibited items’, and guidance on school’s powers of screening and confiscation can be found at:
In the rare occasions when reasonable force has had to be used there are clear follow up procedures including contacting parents and carers, and writing up reports of incidents, including the student’s perception of events. There is also a formal complaints procedure which can be followed if required. Full details of this policy are available using the download at the bottom of this page.
Parents are also welcome to follow the link below to access the DFE document which forms the basis of our policy:
The second policy that was discussed with staff on our training day was a policy on lockdown. It is a sad reflection on modern society that organisations such as schools have to have a lockdown policy to maintain the safety and wellbeing of its community. Parents will recall that our school was obliged to go into a lockdown last term under the instructions of the police following an incident outside of school in which an intruder with no link to the school whatsoever sought refuge and escape through our site.
Our lockdown policy was put into immediate action and worked very successfully. However, following a review of this incident we have changed our lockdown policy slightly to make it more effective. The most obvious and significant change here is the signal to go on lockdown which has now been incorporated into our automated tannoy system thus ensuring that all areas of the school will receive the call to lockdown. This will be demonstrated to staff and students shortly.
Both of these policies, Use of Reasonable Force and Lockdown, have been before our Governors’ Resources committee for formal approval.
Unfortunately there are some occasions when parents and carers are not happy about the way our school deals with issues. On rare occasions this has led to parents contacting the Complaints Against Schools Team within Ofsted, and their response is to contact the local authority for further information. Whilst parents and carers clearly have the right to do this, we are informed that on many occasions such complaints are made without reference to our own procedures for dealing with complaints. We would like to remind you that our complaints procedure can be found on this website (links are at the bottom of this page).
New guidance on complaints procedures have recently been published by the DFE (March 2019). We will be reviewing our complaints procedures in the light of this new guidance next term and a revised policy will be presented to the governors before the end of the school year.
We will inform you when this review has been carried out and the new policy will be posted on our website for you reference. If you would like to look at the DFE guidance, please follow this link:
Parents and Carers will be aware of issues related to knife crime in the West Midlands area and nationally. The second half of 2017 saw a rise in crime in Walsall as serious incidents doubled compared to 2013. Knife crime has also steadily risen, with more than 10 incidents recorded a month last year. It comes after a series of stabbings in the Black Country since the start of the year, leading to urgent calls for action to tackle knife crime.
Although we as a school have a no-tolerance approach to students bringing knives into school, and incidents are extremely rare, we are aware of the problems in the local area. We have had an ongoing education programme regarding knife crime working closely with West Midlands Police.
As part of this programme we are hosting the West Midlands Police Knife arch as part of this wider education programme. In May all year groups will receive an assembly delivered by West Midlands Police after which all students will be expected to exit through the knife arch. We see this as a preventative measure with the aim of educating our students, hence we giving you and them advance notice of the event. However it is our intention to host the knife arch in future without any notice and any student identified through the knife arch would be processed by the police.
Similarly no school in the country is immune from issues related to bullying and drugs, and both of these issues are covered in our PSHE programme delivered by tutors during form periods.
We also propose to invite the West Midlands Police drugs sniffer dogs into school. This event will also take place in May and will follow a similar format to the knife arch: there will be an input from West Midlands Police during an assembly after which students will be expected to pass by the sniffer dog on their way out.
In both the knife arch and sniffer dog events approval has been given by the local authority and our Governors, and our staff will be on hand to ensure that they are carried out with the sensitivity and care you would expect.
With regard to bullying we strive to deal with all incidents of bullying and again have a no tolerance approach. Parents and students are welcome to contact pastoral staff to report their concerns and they will deal with it accordingly. We have a student led FABS anti-bullying group and participate in anti-bullying initiatives organised by the local authority, including a series of activities in Anti-Bullying week each year. Our anti-bullying policy can be found on the school website. Could we remind you about the very successful SHARP system of referrals where students and parents can report their concerns on a wide range of matters. This system can be accessed online, in school and through our website, and messages go straight through to our Safeguarding Team. All referrals are treated in confidence, and although they can be made anonymously, past experience has shown that such referrals are less useful as we can have difficulty replying to concerns and investigating them as we thoroughly as we would like. We have included details of our Safeguarding Team and parents, carers and students are welcome to contact these personally if they would like to discuss any safeguarding concerns.
People in school who can help you
Members of our safeguarding team
Radicalisation of young people is also a concern in modern society and the Christchurch Mosque attacks are evidence of this. The West Midlands has also had its problems regarding radicalisation from Islamic and far right and extreme right political groups. Our staff have regular briefings on this and have been trained under the governments’’ Prevent” strategy.
Officers from West Midlands Police are in school on a regular basis to attend our Polices Surgeries. Students can be referred to these surgeries by staff with parental permission, parents and carers can make a referral, or students themselves can self-refer. West Midlands Police are also coming into school later this term to work with small groups of students on the issues of sexting and texting. You will be sent more details near the time.
Upcoming Police Surgeries
We trust you agree that this letter shows that the safeguarding and wellbeing of our staff and students at St Thomas More is always paramount. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this letter or these policies you are welcome to make an appointment with D Dale. Similarly we are always open to ideas to further maintain and improve the safety and wellbeing of our school community.
Mrs S Bowen and Mr S W Burns