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Challenging behaviour (copy)

Challenging behaviour is defined as:

“Behaviour of such intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or

others is placed in serious jeopardy or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or deny access to the use of community facilities”

(Emerson, 1987).

In the first instance, schools should be guided by their behaviour policy which should be in line with the DfE document Behaviour and Discipline in Schools

Safer Working Practices, 2015 (Safer Recruitment Consortium) identifies the following advice:

  • Where a pupil has specific needs in respect of particularly challenging behaviour, a positive handling plan, including assessment of risk, should be drawn up and agreed by all parties, including, for example, a medical officer where appropriate.
  • Senior managers should ensure that the establishment’s behaviour policy includes clear guidance about the use of isolation and seclusion. The legislation on these strategies is complex and staff should take extreme care to avoid any practice that could be viewed as unlawful, a breach of the pupil’s human rights and/or false imprisonment.
  • Where the school or setting judges that a child’s behaviour presents a serious risk to themselves or others, they must always put in place a robust risk assessment which is reviewed regularly and, where relevant, a physical intervention plan.
  • In all cases where physical intervention has taken place, it would be good practice to record the incident and subsequent actions and report these to a manager and the child’s parents.
  • Where it can be anticipated that physical intervention is likely to be required, a plan should be put in place which the pupil and parents/carers are aware of and have agreed to. Parental consent does not permit settings to use unlawful physical intervention or deprive a pupil of their liberty.

The following publications may also provide useful information:

Updates and changes


These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.