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Casa Caterina Special School

Restrictive Practices Policy



This policy reflects the school’s ethos and is written in consultation with the following partners – staff, parents, and the patron. Our school in the first instance applies the principles outlined in our Code of Behaviour, which provide guidelines to staff on the use of day to day positive behavioural support strategies.  These are designed to help all pupils to modify/manage their own behaviour in the long-term.  Where these strategies are not working and it is foreseeable that a pupil might engage in high risk behaviours requiring that either physical, environmental or mechanical restrictions be put in place, this policy applies.


This policy reflects the school’s ethos and is written in consultation with the following partners – staff, parents, and the patron. The policy is based on guidance from the following:

  • Education and Welfare Act 2000
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 2007 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005
  • Tusla (2017) Children First Guidelines
  • DES (2013) Guidelines for Schools on Supporting Students with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties - An information guide for Primary Schools:

This policy should be read in conjunction with the following school policies and structures:

  • Child Protection Policy
  • Anti Bullying Policy
  • Code of Behaviour
  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Admissions Policy
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Data Protection Policy
  • Protected Disclosure Policy

Aim of policy:

The aim of the policy is to provide all relevant stakeholders (the Board of Management, staff and parents) with:

  • clear guidelines to staff, pupils and parents regarding the use of restrictive practices/physical interventions in our school;
  • to create a culture within the school of where there is a last resort approach to the use of restrictions;
  • to safely and ethically manage serious incidents when they occur;
  • to reduce the risks associated with serious incidents such as injuries to self or others or serious damage to property.
























Section 1 – Physical Interventions

There are many times when physical contact is used in our school such as: physically assisting a pupil to complete a task; patting a pupil in affirmation; administering first aid and meeting intimate care needs. The table below outlines some examples (the list is not exhaustive) of circumstances where there is physical contact with a pupil for therapeutic; safety or care needs. These interventions are not considered as restrictive.


Table 1: Examples of physical interventions (non restrictive)

Reassurance/ Comfort

Intimate Care/ First Aid/Safety

Pat on arm for praise/ reassurance

Treating minor injuries

Holding hand of upset child

Assistance with toileting

High Fives

Assistance with dressing and personal care

Sensory programmes

Lifting a pupil down from a height

Taking a dangerous object from a pupil.

Hand over hand assistance

Keeping a pupil with epilepsy safe

Assistance in walking, climbing stairs



Our duty of care to others however, means that it may on occasion also be necessary to use physical contact to restrain a pupil who is putting him/herself or another person at risk of injury. This policy governs the use of the following practices:


  • Physical Prompting- giving enough physical or gestural cues to accomplish whatever response you are asking the person to make (e.g. when encouraging a pupil to leave an area you may have to gently prompt him towards the door/away from the area whilst also giving him verbal direction)
  • Physical Guidance - physically and gently supporting a pupil to leave an area that is unsafe, to not touch something that is risky, to go to a specific area for personal care, etc.
  • Physical Restraint  - the use of any part of another person’s body to restrict free movement of an individual for the primary purpose of controlling that individual’s behaviour.


The following table outlines some (the list is not exhaustive); circumstances where physical contact as described above may have to be used as a last resort:


Table 2: Examples of use of physical contact as a last resort

  • Escorting a resisting pupil to a safer location;
  • Interventions to avoid personal injuries/infections resulting from kicking, punching, slapping, biting, spitting, grabbing, hair-pulling  etc;
  • Intervening in a physical altercation between pupils;
  • Controlling the movements of a pupil to prevent self-harm, harm to others, absconding, destruction of property, socially un-acceptable behaviour.


























Section 2- Non Contact Restrictions

To keep pupils safe, mechanical restrictions may be used. The following table outlines examples of mechanical restrictions present in the school and examples of mechanical restrictions that may be required for individual pupils.


Table 3: Examples of mechanical restrictions



  • High handles on doors
  • Locks on presses
  • Coded exits/ entries
  • Reduced access to equipment in some rooms
  • Fencing around playgrounds


  • Harnesses on transport
  • Belt locks on transport
  • Locked doors in agreed circumstances























Section 3 - Prevention

The school seeks in the first instance to be proactive at all times to prevent and minimise the need for physical interventions and restrictive practices by employing ‘first resort’ strategies i.e. de-escalation strategies and environmental alterations as follows:


Table 4: Examples of de-escalation strategies used within Casa Caterina

Sensory breaks, visual schedules, use of rewards, verbal supports, praise, reassurance, positive reminders, offering choices, short tasks only, calm stance and facial expression of staff, careful use of tone of voice and choice of words by staff, change of staff, distraction/diversion, use of humour, negotiation, outlining limits/boundaries, selective attention, time given to process/cool down.


Table 5: Environmental Alterations used within Casa Caterina

1:1 teaching areas, individual workstations, access to preferred activities where possible, access to preferred or skilled staff where possible, timetables organised to minimise risks, individual schedules, reduced pupil/staff ratios, increased access to specialist staff, comfort areas, sensory room, opportunities provided to ‘burn off energy’, Aistear room, Co-operative learning, Montessori approach for younger children.















Section 4 – Behaviour Plans

Behaviour plans are developed for all pupils (in accordance with training provided by the Crisis Prevention Institute) who present with behaviours that challenge and who are deemed of greatest risk of needing restrictive physical interventions. Parents are actively encouraged to meet with teaching staff to discuss and review prevention strategies within their child’s behaviour plan.


A Behaviour Support Plan ideally should contain the following:

  • a brief history of the pupil
  • a brief outline of likes/dislikes and known triggers
  • a functional assessment of the behaviour
  • a behaviour support plan outlining environmental alterations, direct interventions, skills teaching and reactive strategies
  • de-escalation strategies to employ when behaviours start to occur
  • recommended interventions/ restrictive practices which may be employed when de-escalation strategies are unsuccessful or not possible
  • planned reviews of any recommended restrictive practices
  • a list of persons to whom the plan needs to be communicated
















Section 5 –Staff Training

The school uses the MAPA approach (delivered by the Crisis Prevention Institute) to support pupils having difficulties managing their behaviour.


The staff have had training provided to them by CPI and avail of ongoing refresher training. The strategies and techniques of the training focus on the “Care, Welfare, Safety and Security” of all students and staff with evidenced based de-escalation and crisis prevention approaches.  


The overall aim of MAPA is to:

  • Prevent escalating behaviours
  • Intervene and de-escalate risk behaviours
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of restraint


Other training availed of by some staff include the following:

  • Nurture training
  • Participation by teachers in online and face to face courses during the summer
  • Attendance at seminars, conferences and workshops in behaviour management
  • First Aid training
  • Children First Training (TUSLA)
  • PECS Training









Section 6 – Guidelines on the use of Restrictive Practices

The following section provides guidance on the use of restrictive practices within Casa Caterina.


Restrictive practices may be used in the following instances:

  • The restrictive practice is outlined as a preventive or behaviour intervention within the pupil’s behaviour plan. It is the duty of staff working in the class to be familiar with and implement strategies recommended. In the first instance, staff will exhaust the use of non-restrictive practices. In the event that these planned interventions fail to be working and the behaviour is escalating to an extent that the risk suggests the students poses a risk of harm to either themselves or others;  staff must use their judgement and take appropriate action to safeguard pupils or staff and to manage the situation safely with a focus on CPI principles - the “Care, Welfare, Safety and Security” of all students and staff.
  • In the event of an unforeseen or emergency situations where it is assessed that the restrictive practice is necessary to minimise harm to the pupil’s safety or the safety of others. An example might bea pupil suddenly tries to climb over a fence or run out on a road, or unexpectedly attempts to hurt another individual Unplanned interventions must take the following principles into consideration:
  • Necessity/Duress of circumstances – where action must be taken but staff members are required to choose a course of action that will result in least harm
  • Reasonable Force - determined by the severity of the behaviour and counterbalanced by gender, size, experience, etc
  • The best interests of the pupil
  • The action is proportionate to the dangers involved
  • Acting in Good Faith – encompasses a sincere belief or motive without any malice
  • Duty of Care – Acting with watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence.


Essentially restrictive practices are used to keep children and staff safe.





Section 7 – Using time out/ withdrawal/ comfort/ environmental restraints

Sometimes a pupil cannot manage in a classroom setting for a variety of reasons and needs to be withdrawn to allow teaching and learning to continue for the rest of the pupils. Pupils may be withdrawn from the classroom for a set period in a number of ways including:

  1. 1.    Time Out– for pupils who need time or space to calm/self-regulate i.e. pupil is encouraged or prompted to move to another table, chair or designated classroom area for a short period of time or may be sent ‘on a message’. The purpose of this is to divert or distract the pupil. The goal of time out is to support the pupil to learn self-management techniques when they are upset or experiencing difficulty. Time out involves a choice on the part of the pupil. This can be distinguished from environmental restraint when the choice is taken away from the pupil. Time out therefore gives freedom and choice where environmental restraint limits freedom.


  1. 2.  Withdrawal/Comfort / Environmental Restraint (accompanied) – This may be used to move a pupil to another place outside of the classroom where he or she is continually supported or monitored by staff either inside or outside the area the pupil is in. This may involve physically intervening to move the pupil and/or preventing him/her from leaving the area until staff consider that it is safe to do so. Staff must continuously attempt to distract or divert the pupil and return him/her to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so. This may take some time if the pupil demonstrates that he/she requires a break from activities or is still exhibiting behaviours that challenge.  Doors are not secured in this instance.

3.Environmental Restraint (unaccompanied)– Confining a pupil to an area through use of locks on doors is a major restrictive practice and is only considered in exceptional circumstances in which the pupil is presenting as a real and immediate risk to themselves or others. The use of this intervention must be proportionate to the risk presented by the pupil. It may be used at times when the risk of significant injury to pupils or staff are very high. The pupil is continuously monitored to ensure his/her safety.







Section 8 - Actions taken before using a physical intervention

Physical interventions are only employed as a last resort. This does not mean that all other possible strategies must be tried and tested beforehand; rather it means that staff must make a considered judgement balancing the risks involved, thus allowing informed decisions to be made. Occasionally using a physical intervention early on may prevent a risk of injury to other pupils and staff thus justifying the use of that intervention in that particular situation.


 All staff are however required to carry out the following steps and to make a dynamic risk assessment before employing a physical intervention.


Table 6: Steps taken by staff before employing a physical intervention




  • Selective attention
  • Adopt a calm, non-threatening stance and posture
  • Use a slow controlled voice
  • Give clear visual or verbal directions
  • Pause and allow time for compliance




  • The likely outcomes if a restrictive practice  is used against the likely outcomes if it is not
  • The short term risks versus long term risks
  • Balancing the best interests, health and safety of the pupil with the best interests, health and safety of the other pupils, staff and general public
  • Alerting staff who are most likely to succeed in diffusing the situation



Having followed all of the above, should a restrictive practice be necessary, staff work of the guiding principle of “the least restrictive alternative in the least restrictive environment”; whilst at all times striving to respect the dignity of the pupil.






Section 9 – Post Incident Support

Following an incident the priority is to look after the pupils and staff involved before reports are filled out and reviews held. Debriefing of staff and pupils is important and is facilitated by allowing for class break up following a serious incident. Classes may call on support from an adjacent class to allow for individual staff members to step out for a short period. Ideally a formal debriefing meeting should be held in the days following a major incident.

Incident reports should be filled out by staff involved when:

  • A physical or environmental restraint has been used.
  • Other pupils or staff have experienced physical assault
  • There is significant damage to property

The best time to fill out an incident report is when the situation has settled and the pupil and staff have had time to recover. Group completion of an incident report enables staff to reflect together on possible triggers, appropriateness of interventions and future actions.  The report is signed by the Principal or Deputy Principal who will review the interventions used by staff. This will inform any future actions.

















Section 11- Complaints and allegations

The school seeks to engage positively with parents regarding all aspects of their child’s education, care and management.  Parents of pupils who engage in high risk behaviours that challenge are prioritised for meetings/phone calls with the Principal or Deputy Principal. The school will endeavour to keep parents informed in a manner that is reasonable and in the best interests of their child.  This will take the form of meetings, phone calls, communication books or letters. All parents are issued with a copy of the policy and requested to indicate that they have read and agree with the contents.

How to make a Complaint

  • Parents wishing to make complaint should in the first instance contact the Principal who will furnish the parent with a copy of the Complaints Procedure.
  • Staff wishing to make a complaint should in the first instance contact the Principal who will furnish the staff member with a copy of the Complaints Procedure


Section 12 – Timeframe for review/ ratfication

The draft policy was circulated to Staff, the Patron and the Board of Management 2021.

Timetable for Review

As necessary

Review and Ratification

This plan was ratified by the Board of Management on 19th October 2021

Signed:                       Principal

            Chairperson Board of Management


Section 13: Parental Consent

I have read and understand the policy.



Signed: ______________________                           Date: ____________________


Designed and Created by PC Solutions for Casa Caterina School, Cabra, Dublin..