What are restrictive practices?

A restrictive practice is any action that has the effect of restricting the rights or freedom of movement of a person, with the primary purpose of protecting the person or others from harm.

Informed use of restrictive practices will protect the rights, safety and freedom of a student while balancing the safety of staff and other students. The Department is developing a Restrictive Practices Framework to provide all staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors guidance on the use of restrictive practices in NSW public schools, including NSW public preschools, school-related activities (including excursions, sporting and social events) and students using the Assisted School Travel Program.

Types of restrictive practices

There are five types of restrictive practice:

  1. Seclusion
  2. Chemical restraint
  3. Mechanical restraint
  4. Physical restraint
  5. Environmental restraint
Where possible, and where the restrictive practice is not prohibited, the potential use of restrictive practices should be planned. Decisions underpinning the planning and subsequent use of restrictive practices should be principle-based.

Consideration of the following six principles will promote the reduction and elimination of restrictive practices. The use of restrictive practices should-

  1. consider the needs and circumstances of the individual
  2. be the least restrictive option necessary
  3. be used for the shortest time necessary
  4. be reduced or eliminated wherever possible
  5. monitored when in use
  6. reviewed regularly to ensure they are necessary and effective and are still in line with the principles.

Use of these principles can be targeted at different levels of decision making in schools, from addressing individual needs to considering systemic requirements, such as reviewing school-wide procedures.

Restrictive practices should be considered in light of the Department’s duty of care to its students. The department must take reasonable care to prevent a student from injuring themselves or others. When discharging this duty of care, the best interests of children are the department’s primary consideration.


Refer to Bulletin 9 - Physical intervention and restraint of students for information in relation to the restraint of students.


Seclusion of a student in a room or a physical space where voluntary exit is prevented, or not facilitated, or it is implied that voluntary exit is not permitted, and is a form of restrictive practice. Use of designated separate spaces for students such as sensory rooms, planning rooms, time-out spaces etc. may be seclusion if they are used in this way. The Department's new Seclusion, Detention and Time-out guidelines will commence from Term 2, 2022. Removing students to a separate space should only be considered as a strategy using the six decision-making principles above.


The administration of certain psychotropic medications to control behaviour is a form of restrictive practice, chemical restraint. Information and guidance on the planning for and use of medications can be found on the Student Health in Public Schools policy webpages.

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