A COUNCIL has been praised for leading the way in providing guidelines for teachers who need to physically intervene with disruptive pupils.

A full meeting of Darlington Borough Council this Thursday will discuss the council's new "restrictive physical intervention" policy.

The policy, which sets out how far teachers and staff can go in dealing with problem students, was compiled by a working group of headteachers, school staff, police and social services.

The council hopes it will be implemented in schools across the borough.

Terry Bladon, national senior vice-president of teaching union the NASUWT and a teacher at Eastbourne Comprehensive in Darlington, said the authority was blazing a trail with the policy.

Mr Bladon said: "This new policy in no way gives teaching staff the red light to start hitting children.

"What it does do however is to give them some important guidelines in what remains a very grey area."

Although the policy stresses that other methods should be used first to try to defuse a situation, it indicates that there were circumstances where physical action may be necessary.

A report to councillors said such instances could be where pupils were likely to injure themselves or others, where there was a threat to a safe learning environment and when other ways of calming a situation had failed.

The policy follows high-profile cases of pupil-on-teacher assaults, including the rape of a teacher by a student at a education centre in County Durham.

Mr Bladon said: "In my experience schools remain remarkably calm places but there is no doubt that instances of violence, especially pupil against pupil, are on the increase. In this environment teachers need to know where they stand."