Ofsted guidance for inspection of physical intervention

Ofsted has issued guidance for inspectors on the use of physical intervention/restraint in care settings and education.

We would recommend a thorough read of this document as it may have salient points for you to consider before your next inspection.

We have selected a few essential points, but again please do read the whole document as it is bound to have implications for your setting when it comes to inspection.

The Premise

We start from the premise that staff should work positively and confidently with children and find the least intrusive way possible to support, empower and keep children safe. The foundation of good practice in working with children should be:

building relationships of trust and understanding triggers and finding solutions 
if incidents do occur, defusing the situation and/or distracting the child wherever possible.

  • We expect adults to be skilled and confident in finding the best ways to keep children safe; ways that promote their rights, respect their dignity and help equip them for the future.

In practice, this means that we can legitimately set out to question and understand any type of physical intervention or restriction on children’s lives, including the use of isolation/seclusion in schools.

When evaluating a restraint or a restriction of liberty, the legislation requires us to consider:

  • Was this action legal and necessary – for example, was this action taken to prevent a child injuring themselves or someone else or causing serious harm to property or in a school to maintain good order and discipline?
    Could this action be considered as ‘reasonable’ in this particular circumstance?
  • Was it the minimum force necessary?
  • Was it proportionate?

Weight of Decisions

When looking at how incidents have been dealt with, we need to give significant weight to the requirements around positive relationships. These are set out clearly for children’s homes in the ‘positive relationships’ Quality Standard (regulation 11).5

Questioning Approach

Questioning an approach is about being able to challenge constructively. Just because restraint is permissible, it does not mean that it is the best and/or only way to manage a concern or situation. We should be challenging providers through our inspection activity to challenge their own practice and think hard about the most constructive and positive ways to work with children.

Missed Opportunities

If we always start from the premise of ‘does this practice comply with the regulation/guidance about restraint?’ we may miss opportunities to question practice and help providers to look differently at how they work with children. We cannot underestimate the emotional impact that incidents can have on children, including long-term, adverse effects on their mental health.


A consistent approach to the management of behaviour is what best meets the needs of children and young people. Therefore, we should expect that the regulations and statutory guidance for children’s homes about restraint are consistently applied across both the educational and children’s home settings where they are co-located. If there are differences between the home and school, we need to understand how this is managed and how this is in children’s best interests.


Given this, it is not helpful for us to over-focus on what is recorded. Our emphasis should be on the impact of what is recorded.

  • How does the recording influence practice?
  • Does the manager or school leader monitor trends and patterns about individual children, individual staff and groups of staff (such as shift patterns or lessons)?
  • Does the manager or school leader take account of the views of children, including those who communicate non-verbally?

In all cases, we should focus our attention on the rationale for the intervention (physical or restriction) and the impact of the post-incident review – that is, the experience of the child and the extent to which both staff and children experience a restorative approach following any incident. Inspectors should recognise the progress providers make and an innate willingness to keep reflecting on and challenging their own practice.

NOTE: Policy Portal Members: – Physical intervention policies in our policy packages have recently been reviewed to reflect this and other recent guidance.

Click here to download a copy of the guidance.