Physical contact between pupils and conductors is inevitable in conductive education settings. Equally inevitable are the difficulties likely to arise from the perceptions of 'safeguarding' vigilantes. If such persons are Ofsted Inspectors, then the consequences can potentially be severe. Such attitudes encourage schools to adopt, in practice, informally or formally, policies of no contact.
A moment or so ago, I came across by chance a debate on this very matter in the House of Lords on 11 July 2011 during the Committee Stage of the Education Bill currently before Parliament.
The contribution of Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat. Spokesperson for the Department of Education in the House of Lords) would seem apposite and sensible:
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving us the opportunity for this debate. We agree with much of his amendment. Of course a teacher should be able to comfort a small child who has fallen over or show them how to hold a violin bow or a tennis racket. The notion of no contact seems to me to go against our instincts as humans and, indeed, as teachers. There is nothing in law to prevent it. When pupils are on school premises, or off site but under the lawful charge of the school, teachers and school staff are acting in loco parentis. This means that they are, in the eyes of the common law, effectively stepping into the shoes of a parent unless there are statutory provisions which specify otherwise. No parent would think twice about sticking on a plaster or showing a child how to hold a rounders bat, and a teacher should feel equally able to do these things. I would strongly encourage any head teacher to make this clear to his or her staff. (Hansard 11 July 2011 : Column GC180)
She goes on to quote from recently issued DfE guidance (I do not have the link):
"It is not illegal to touch a pupil. There are occasions when physical contact ... with a pupil is proper and necessary.
Examples of where touching a pupil might be proper or necessary: holding the hand of the child at the front/back of the line when going to assembly or when walking together around the school; when comforting a distressed pupil; when a pupil is being congratulated or praised; to demonstrate how to use a musical instrument; to demonstrate exercises or techniques during PE lessons or sports coaching; and to give first aid".
Sarah said to her Mum, returning in our car from going shopping, "When we get home, you can give me a hug." Not getting much of a response from her Mum, she said, a little more emphatically, "You know what that means, don't you? It means you love me!"
What an odd world we live in that it should take a debate in Parliament and guidance from a Department of State, to set out what is entirely evident to a young woman with cerebral palsy?