United Kingdom

Fears over growth of isolation booths for disruptive schoolchildren

In a statement, the Department of Education said that the use of student isolation "must comply with pupil safeguarding and welfare requirements".

"Schools may choose to use in-school units, whether that be to provide additional support to vulnerable pupils, or as a sanction to remove pupils with challenging behaviour from the classroom.

"Our guidance is clear however, that use of isolation must comply with pupil safeguarding and welfare requirements. Pupils are not to be kept in isolation longer than necessary and their time spent there must be as constructive as possible."

Schools are using toilet blocks to build isolation booths for “disruptive” children, the children’s commissioner has said, amid concerns that the practice could put young people’s mental health at risk.

The Guardian reports that children's commissioner Anne Longfield has spoken out against schools converting toilet blocks and classrooms into spaces for students to sit in silence as a form of punishment.

Ms Longfield said she had heard “horror stories” of pupils spending days or weeks at a time isolated from their classmates, with some students admitting to falling asleep because there was nothing else for them to do.

Earlier this month the Centre for Mental Health (CMH) released a report warning that extended periods of isolation at school "can echo relational trauma and systemic trauma" and "may cause harm and potentially drive even more challenging behaviour".

The government is currently researching the use of isolation rooms and exclusions as well as how to better manage student behaviour, with its findings due to be released later this year.

"All kids have a right to a good education and if they are being removed from a classroom and put into isolation they are not getting their education," Ms Longfield said.

"What I'm concerned about is when those isolation booths seem to be booming in some schools and when those periods of isolation outside the classroom become very much the norm and when they are being abused."