The Department has provided additional resources to the Education and Library Boards through its Discipline Strategy to support a range of initiatives aimed at improving pupil behaviour generally and supporting schools in dealing with more challenging pupils. The key features of the strategy include:
multi-disciplinary behaviour support teams in each Education and Library Board (ELB) to work with teachers and pupils on behaviour management; external pupil referral units providing additional (short-stay) withdrawal places for pupils whose behaviour problems cannot be managed satisfactorily within the classroom; and permanent education provision other than at school for the most disruptive 14 to 16-year-olds for whom mainstream education is considered unsuitable.
The Department issued a circular to schools in 1999 providing clarification and guidance on the use of reasonable force to restrain or control pupils. This was supplemented in 2003 by a document to help each school formulate its own policy on this matter. A further guidance document, distributed to schools during the 2003/04 school year, set out a structured framework for the development of a school policy on the use of reasonable force.
The Department is involved in the Knife Awareness Working Group established by the Chief Constable. Work has included development of an education package, which is offered to post-primary schools by crime prevention officers and partnership activities with schools and youth groups.