02 April, 2019 - Minister McHugh invites views and contributions on the development of guidelines for schools on the use of physical intervention for the prevention and management of crisis situations

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today invited contributions and views from the general public including schools, parents, young people and services working with young people on the use of physical intervention in the prevention and management of crisis student behaviour in school.    

All schools have policies and procedures in place to ensure that the school environment is safe and conducive to good teaching and learning and the promotion of student wellbeing. A variety of supports including guidance, advice and professional development options is available to support school management and teachers in this work. The evidence from the inspectorate and other services that visit schools is that these policies are effective and in general, most students have a positive education experience. However, schools are evolving places where the variety of need presented by students is becoming more complex and the challenge for the system is to ensure there are sufficient supports in place to ensure all students receive an education in accordance with their needs and circumstances.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has advised the Department of the need to develop guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of student crisis situations in schools. These guidelines will be evidence-based and will complement the statutory guidelines on School Codes of Behaviour published by Tusla in 2008.

An expert Working Group has been established to develop the Guidelines to assist schools in managing crisis situations. It is intended to publish the Guidelines later this year. Contributions and views of the public are now being invited to inform the work. For this purpose, an online questionnaire is available for completion from today.

In announcing this call for submissions, Minister McHugh said: “It is important that we capture the experience and views of schools, teachers, parents and young people and others at this stage of the work. These views will complement the research, both local and international, which is currently being examined by the Group.”

It is expected that draft Guidelines will be published before the summer and will be the subject of consultation with the education partners and others before they are finalised.

The Guidelines will apply to all recognised schools and will place a strong focus on prevention and early intervention strategies for the management of crisis student behaviour in which physical intervention may be employed only as the last part of a comprehensive, positive and planned behavioural approach by the school.

The Guidelines will be informed by the evidence which shows that whole-school positive behavioural approaches and early and ongoing engagement with the school community, including parents, are necessary for the development of effective school policy and practice.

The Minister concluded “the input of the public will be greatly appreciated and all contributions will be treated as confidential.”

The online questionnaire is available from today on the Department of Education and Skills’ website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Events/feedback/how-to-manage-crisis-student-behaviour-in-schools.html and will remain open to receive submissions until 4pm on Monday 15th April 2019.




Notes for Editors



The NCSE’s Policy Advice Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2015) recommended that the Department of Education and Skills develop guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of crisis student behaviour situations in schools. Recommendation 10 of the Advice states that the guidelines should cover the following:

Realistic and appropriate emergency procedures for crisis situations, involving episodes of extremely challenging or violent behaviour, causing serious risk to the student him/herself, or other students or staff members; and the supports available to students, teachers, and parents following such incidents. The guidelines should comply with the law.

Having considered the matter, the Department of Education and Skills decided to review current policies and develop new guidelines for schools on the prevention and management of challenging behaviours (including the use of physical interventions) where such behaviour is considered as likely to present serious risk of physical harm to the student concerned and/or others within the school environment.

A Working Group has been established to develop the guidelines. The Working Group has an independent Chairperson and comprises representatives of the Department of Education and Skills, National Educational Psychological Service, Inspectorate, National Council for Special Education, Education Welfare Service, an independent behaviour expert, a school principal and a parent with knowledge of the issue.

The guidelines will assist schools in responding in circumstances where students pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others. They will be underpinned by the principles that such intervention is never used for the purposes of discipline; that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to de-escalate the situation. The guidelines will also underline the importance of continued supervision of children during a crisis period including matters related to behaviour. It is also expected that the guidelines will underline the importance of recording such incidents and how they are managed.


Working Group


Terms of Reference

The purpose of the guidelines is to assist schools in helping all students in their care to participate fully in school life and achieve their potential in education. In particular, the guidelines will set out guidance for schools on effective approaches to managing behaviour and intervening early.

Accordingly, a dedicated expert Working Group was established to develop the guidelines for the consideration and agreement of the Department.

As a first step, the Working Group will develop a project plan for the work outlining roles and responsibilities, targets and timeframes.

In carrying out its work, the Group will consider and take account of the views of schools and teachers, parents, young people and other stakeholders.

The guidelines will be evidence informed and take account of best practice approaches both in Ireland and internationally. The Guidelines will also take account of relevant legal issues and advices.

The Guidelines will provide school management authorities with a practical guide on the development of school policies and procedures for the promotion of positive behaviour in schools and for the prevention and management of crisis student behaviour situations that may involve the use of physical interventions. Guidance will be provided on the type of interventions that may be considered and their appropriate use.

The Group will identify relevant policies, programmes/interventions and supports available to schools to help in the management of crisis student behaviour and make recommendations as required.

The Group will map out the roles and responsibilities for decision making in a school including in the development of school policies, their implementation and evaluation. The Guidelines will address requirements in relation to record keeping, reporting to school management and parents, including risk assessment processes and planning.

The Guidelines will take account of relevant policies, programmes and legal requirements already in place and aim to provide an enhanced framework of guidance and support for schools, teachers and students.  

The Group will advise on the dissemination of the Guidelines together with any information and training programme that will be required to support the Guidelines.

The Group will also advise on any evaluation arrangements for the Guidelines.


The Working Group is comprised as follows:

  • Independent Chair – Ms. Maureen Costello (former Director of NEPS)
  • Representatives of the following services:
    • NEPS – Ms. Louise Condon
    • Inspectorate – Mr. Sean Ó Murchú
    • NCSE – Ms. Kathryn Fitzgerald
    • Educational Welfare Service – Mr. David Dineen
  • Independent behaviour expert – Dr.Patricia Daly (Mary Immaculate College)
  • Principal of a Special School – Ms.Marie Burke (Carmona Special School)
  • Parent with knowledge of matters to be considered by the Group – Mr. Mark O’Connor (Inclusion Ireland)
  • DES Special Education Section – Mr. Eddie Ward/Ms. Davina Bracken/Ms. Ciara McClearn (member and secretariat)



Current Position


The Board of Management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all of the pupils in their school. Schools should supervise and support children who are distressed or out of control until they have recovered and are able to re-engage in the classroom. In some circumstances this may mean the temporary removal of a child from the environment where the problems have arisen. Schools are not required to report on such interventions.

Schools owe a duty of care to all their students and any action taken in relation to managing behaviour must be proportionate.

Tusla's Educational Welfare Service, under the aegis of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has published guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour which all schools are required by law to have in place. The guidelines advise that specialised behaviour management strategies, such as the use of restraint, should not be used without expert advice, training and monitoring. In particular, the guidelines point to certain sanctions which are regarded as inappropriate, including leaving a student in an unsupervised situation while in the care of the school. All parents must be made aware of behaviour management strategies employed by the school.

Schools may seek advice from their local National Educational Psychological Services psychologist, from the NCSE’s Support Service which includes special educational needs organisers, the National Behavioural Support Service and the Special Education Support Service, as to how children with behavioural needs can best be supported in school.

A range of guidance is available for schools in relation to the management of student behaviour. The Department published Guidelines for Supporting Pupils with Behavioural, Emotional, and Social Difficulties, which is available on the Department’s website, www.education.ie. The National Educational Psychological Service’s document Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties – A Continuum of Support also provides advice for teachers, including some advice on the use of “time out” procedures in the classroom.

Training is available for schools in relation to the provision of support for children with special educational needs from the NCSE’s Regional Service. The Special Education Support Service can, as part of its designated training modules, provide guidance for schools in relation to the management of difficult behaviour.