Scottish parents are being urged to give their views on new laws regarding the use of physical intervention in schools as the deadline for responses looms.

If passed, the legislation would require existing guidelines around the restraint and seclusion of pupils in Scottish schools to be made legally enforceable.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson is proposing the bill in parliament after years of campaigning from mum Beth Morrison, whose son was restrained by four members of staff in 2010 in an incident where he was left in urine-soaked clothes and with multiple bruises.

Named after her son, Calum’s Law would demand that councils have clear guidance that is enforced at all times, as well as other measures to ensure methods of physical intervention do not impede on children’s human rights.

Johnson said: “We clearly been on a very long build-up to this point, but I think a number of organisations have been identifying this issue and doing studies showing that quite a significant number of children are being subjected to seclusion and restraint.

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“I think the United Nations saying that guidance should be on a statutory basis, and Northern Ireland doing just that, clearly builds a bit of pressure.

“I think the other thing I would add is that this is clearly not a government that believes that you leave human rights just out there and as a matter of culture or understanding - they are seeking to legislate. If you believe that you need to enshrine human rights and law, and this clearly has a major human rights consideration, then why wouldn't you at the very least make this guidance your statutory?”

Various reports from Scotland’s Children and Young People’s commissioner have painted a concerning picture of the issue across the country. A 2018 investigation found that the use of restraint and seclusion was “largely unmonitored, with glaring inconsistencies across local authorities.” Subsequent reports in 2019 and 2022 found little-to-no progress had been made.

Recent research, conducted by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition concluded that punitive approaches are harming pupils’ mental health, advocating for a “wholescale culture shift’ in schools around the UK.

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Johnson said: “Not all local authorities are actually recording this, and a minority are recording it on a consistent basis. Even on the numbers that they did extract, you are looking at a situation where some children are experiencing the use of restraint and seclusion multiple times a week.

“Actually, one of the issues with some of the local authorities, the ones that are only recording this partially, is that they're not even recording it in a way that you can actually trace the individual experience of the individual child.

“You are talking about a situation that certainly, I think, is the experience of hundreds of children across Scotland, potentially into the thousands, and it's certainly a situation that these are not one-off experiences for many children. This is something that they expect almost routinely as a matter of their school day.

Morrison has been campaigning for statutory guidelines for over a decade after son Calum was physically restrained when he misunderstood instructions while riding a disability bike in the gym hall. Staff were said to have pinned Callum down, before he lost consciousness and urinated.

The incident took place at a school which caters for children with additional support needs – a group that Johnson claims are disproportionately affected by use of restraint and segregation.

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The Edinburgh Southern MSP, who has ADHD, said:  “We’re certainly talking about the overwhelming majority of these being children with additional support needs. Probably, the biggest cohort is autistic kids. You're talking about kids with ADHD and other neuro-developmental issues. I would worry what this pattern looks like post pandemic, as well.”

The charity Positive & Active Behaviour Support Scotland, set up by Morrison in 2017, had received reports of nearly 1750 incidents similar to Calum’s. They say just 33 of these children had their injuries recorded by the school, with none reported to child protection services or the police.

The public consultation on the proposed bill, which began in June, asks for views on guidance being made statutory, as well as schools being required to report all incidents to parents and guardians and the publishing of incident numbers of restraint and seclusion in schools by the Scottish Government. The consultation will close on Friday 29 September.

Johnson added: “It’s a very disturbing picture. I mean, most explicitly, I think for the children themselves, that is what they come to expect at school, but I think there's a broader concern actually.

"What does this say about the state of practice, resource, training, support for teachers that actually they're having to resort to physical intervention when they are presented with difficult situations?

“I don't believe for a moment that any teacher goes to school in the morning thinking: ‘I'm going to restrain a child today.’ I think you need to recognise this is almost certainly situations where you're reaching a point of becoming overwhelmed, and therefore, I think there's a real necessity to address that.”