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Minimising physical restraint in New Zealand schools and kura  

Why this project is important

Tamariki must feel included, safe, empowered and supported to thrive in school and kura. Our job was clear for this research, to capture and amplify the voices of tamariki and whānau. To highlight what helps tamariki feel safe and included at school and what supports them when they are upset and distressed. We spoke with tamariki aged 12-18 years who had personally experienced or seen distress at school, as well as with whānau of tamariki with disabilities and learning support needs who had experienced significant distress and physical restraint at school. 

The Ministry of Education has used findings from this research to help inform the development and implementation of new rules and guidelines to minimise the use of physical restraint of ākonga (students).   

The process we took and the people we worked with

Litmus worked closely with the Ministry of Education while developing the framework. Our research team included Māori, Pasifika, European, disabled, and researchers under 25 years of age so participants would feel at ease. All researchers were trained in trauma-informed facilitation.

Interviews and online focus groups were conducted with tamariki, whānau, parents and caregivers across the motu, including children with disabilities and learning support needs, Māori, Pasifika, Asian and New Zealand European. We offered flexible times and days to best suit our participants, and they were able to bring a support person with them. As the research was undertaken during the Omicron peak, equitable inclusion was a central consideration throughout the fieldwork.

What we delivered

This research presents the voices of tamariki and whānau talking about what helps tamariki feel safe and included at school, and what supports tamariki when they are upset and distressed at school.

These lived experiences will inform strategies and practices that promote well-being, prevent distress in the new rules and guidelines on minimising the use of physical restraint in schools. The Ministry of Education will also share on its website, key learnings from the report on creating an environment where tamariki feel safe and included.