isolation booth
isolation booth

This week

Will schools ever learn?


Maria’s Midweek Mindfulness 


the Wednesday Whisper


Use of isolation booths in schools

Parents have criticised the use of isolation booths at secondary schools across the country, after concerns were raised about the behaviour policies run by some academy trusts. The Outwood Grange Academies Trust has adopted “consequences rooms” – small booths in which a child sits alone and in silence for hours on end as punishment for breaking school rules.

The policy for the ‘consequences room’ is occupy and ignore. Students cannot sleep or put their heads on the desk. They must sit up and face forward and are not allowed to “tap, chew, swing on their chairs, shout out, sigh, or any other unacceptable or disruptive behaviour.

“You will be allowed to go to the toilet up to a maximum of three times during the day (maximum five minutes per visit),” the policy reads.  

One mother whose son goes to a school in Yorkshire run by the Delta Academies Trust, said he was “just a regular kid” and there had never been serious concerns raised about his behaviour before the school’s new discipline policy was introduced. “Then he got 22 hours in an isolation booth in one week and he was just an absolute mess.”

A spokesperson for the Outwood Grange Academies Trust said: “The use of isolation booths and rooms allow students to calm down, reflect and often self-correct their behaviour that may have led to that situation.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is up to schools to decide what forms of discipline they adopt, as long as they are lawful and used reasonably. If a school chooses to use isolation rooms, pupils’ time in isolation should be no longer than necessary and used as constructively as possible.”

So here are the problems with this kind of ‘punishment’:

·        Adults believe that children will learn that if they do ‘x’ the result will be ‘y’. But because of the inherent power imbalances between young people and adults in schools, what children actually learn is that if you have the power, you can bully and intimidate others without any form of dialogue. And what is one of the biggest problems in workplaces? Bullying and intimidation – what a surprise.

·        Dishing out punishments which solely places blame on young people for classroom breakdown does not model how to make relationships that work. And, if more and more teachers are failing to get cooperation with their students then we need to question the whole system first, including how that teacher is trained, whether the expectations match reality, whether society has changed to the point that we need to rethink the whole idea of ‘school’ and how the education system manages relationships with families in their planning and execution.

·        Judging schools on an ‘Ofsted’ approach leads to all sorts of questionable practices in order to get a good Ofsted outcome. Young people are not stupid and they know what goes on. For example, the ‘bad kids’ were removed from a school and sent on an ‘outing’ on inspection day so the Inspectors did not see how it really is. This demonstrates to young people that when there is a prize at stake, cheating is OK.

·        Finally, and most importantly, if the idea is for the young person to reflect then we have to teach them HOW TO reflect. We need much better education on ‘self-talk’ and how this contributes to our well-being as an individual and as part of a community. So, in a training I was running, I asked a teacher, who told me that she regularly sends young people out of the classroom to reflect on their wrong-doings, how she reflected on her classroom management methods, and she went into orbit. A fine reaction!!


Maria’s Midweek Mindfulness

This news article disturbed me and interrupted my flow. My original blog was on a different topic so I’m thinking about disruption and how I make decisions to change course. How much of it is based on an emotional trigger and how much of it is based on logical thinking and what is the balance to be drawn?


The Wednesday Whisper

How have you changed course and what influenced you to do so?


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