21st February 2020 — True Publica
By TruePublica Editor: I was shocked to see the instructions of a “consequence Room” for school children and had no idea that even primary schools are using isolation rooms to punish pupils as young as five years old, with some secondaries admitting they are willing to put older pupils into seclusion for up to five days in a row. If you’re a parent of young children, you are probably aware of this, but I have to admit, this is new to me.
A Schools Week investigation originally lifted the lid on the scale and details of how schools across the country were using isolation as punishment for unruly pupils. The rooms are spaces separate from the classroom, where pupils are sent as a behaviour-management intervention. Many schools use them as part of an escalating set of disciplinary measures.
The investigation found over two-thirds of the country’s largest academy trusts have schools use some form of isolation, although with varying labels from “inclusion units” and “consequence booths” to “time-out spaces” and “calm rooms.”
At least four trusts used isolation or intervention spaces on primary-school pupils. That included the Ark Academy chain, where 20 out of its 38 schools had isolation rooms. Primary pupils can be removed for a maximum of half a day, and secondary pupils for up to a week. A week!
The trusts said they are used for children from year 1 upwards. Youngsters can remain there for up to one day. Other trusts said they could put a pupil in isolation for up to a week, while many others give pupils generic online resources instead of the equivalent work from lessons.
Both maintained schools and academies use isolation spaces but academies are more likely to do so, according to the research. However most schools don’t have evidence that such strategies actually work, the report found. So what’s the point?
One critic has claimed isolation booths are the “bleakest sign of an institution giving up”, and are largely used for pupils with learning or emotional difficulties. Can you imagine the effect that might have on them?
The Eden Academy Trust, which has seven special-needs schools in Middlesex, said isolation rooms are an “ineffective behaviour-improvement strategy” for pupils with learning difficulties.
The thought that children aged five or six – can be placed in what they call “reflection spaces” – or places of isolation as punishment, I find astonishing. What is more astonishing is this. Once placed there, according to this instructive example is that the individual must sit in the isolation booth or ‘consequences room’ – completely still, no tapping feet or fingers, chewing gum or sighing. They must look straight ahead. There are three toilet breaks for the whole day and so on.
Does this not look to you like a state being somewhat ‘Orwellian.” By that I mean, is this not preparing children to be controlled in a certain way? I find it creepy frankly. In my day, we had detention. It was used to deny us free time that we had with friends. It was also used to deny after school activities which we enjoyed and detention was an extention of homework, which frankly was not a good end to the day but it did make us learn something new. We all understood the implications of detention and I had my fair share of attendances. For bigger offences, we had punishment ranging from a ruler being slapped across your palm to the cane. But never was I once locked up in a room for a whole day, let alone five days and asked to stare at the wall in silence, where looking at someone or something in my periphery vision meant I’d failed and then punished again. You may disagree with my sentiments here, of course, but still, I sit here astonished that such a form of control exists in the schools of modern-day Britain. Can anything positive come from staring at a wall in total silence for five days?