Positive Handling Practice in Schools A Scoping Review of Current Advice and guidance and a qualitative exploration of it's implementation in English Schools

  • Kirsty Mullowney

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background: Physical restraint or positive handling have become a focus of recent attention. The Association of Educational Psychologists passed a motion to promote the reduction of physical restraint in schools (AEP, 2018) and the Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care (2019) produced non-statutory guidance aimed at reducing restraint in special schools and education settings serving autistic children. However, the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (2019, p. 4) have also called for greater accountability and further staff training and supervision around positive handling. In this context this thesis explores the guidance available and school staff views of the strengths and needs of current practice. Methods/ participants: The first paper is a Scoping Review of literature investigating the advice and guidance available to schools to guide their practice. The second paper is an in depth qualitative survey exploring education staff’s experiences and perceptions of the strengths and needs of current practice. Analysis/ findings: The SLR identified 10 key areas of practice: Competence and Accountability, Dynamic Risk Assessment, Equipping Staff, Safety, Systems and Policies, Planned Intervention, The Balance of Power and Control, Post Incident Support, Relationships and Equality. Paper 2 presents a content analysis of education professionals’ experiences and views on current practice and their hopes for future practice. Conclusion/ implications: The research presents a complex picture around how schools move from guidance to the implementation of positive handling practice. Limited empirical evidence, a lack of statutory rules and systems, wider systemic issues and the demands of working with children with high level needs all present challenges to current practice and limit opportunities to evaluate and improve practice. Paper Three discusses evidence-based practice in relation to the role of practitioner psychologists. Dissemination of these findings and implications for a range of professional practice are discussed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bond (Supervisor) & Catherine Kelly (Supervisor)

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