How to use reasonable force

Make sure you understand when and how staff can make physical interventions with pupils. Read through our summary of the official guidance, including what it has to say on staff training and reporting and recording incidents.

Last reviewed on 11 July 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 633
  1. What force is 'reasonable'?
  2. Who can use reasonable force?
  3. When can reasonable force be used?
  4. How to use reasonable force
  5. Consider staff training
  6. How to report incidents
  7. How to record physical interventions
  8. Set out your approach in a policy

What force is 'reasonable'?

'Reasonable force' covers a broad range of actions, used by most teachers at some point in their career, which involve a degree of physical contact with pupils.

Force is considered reasonable when:

  • It is in proportion to the consequences it’s intended to prevent
  • The level and duration are the minimum necessary to achieve the desired result

Force is usually used either to control or restrain pupils.

Using force to control pupils includes:

  • Passive physical contact, such as standing between pupils or blocking a pupil's path
  • Active physical contact, such as leading a pupil by the arm out of a classroom

Restraint is typically used in more extreme circumstances, such as when 2 pupils are fighting and refuse to separate. This might include:

  • Holding a pupil back physically
  • Bringing a pupil under control

Staff should try to avoid acting in a way that might cause injury, but in extreme cases this may not always be possible.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.