Pupil brings legal action against school’s isolation units

The Guardian is reporting that legal proceedings have been lodged in the high court against an academy trust for its use of so called isolation units to discipline pupils.

Lawyers have applied for a judicial review of Outwood Grange Academies Trust’s (OGAT) use of “consequence rooms” – small rooms in which a child sits alone and in silence for hours on end as punishment for breaking school rules. OGAT runs 30 schools across Yorkshire, the Humber and the east Midlands.

The application has been made on behalf of a boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who was kept in one such unit at his school in Yorkshire for a third of the last academic year – 60 full school days.

Children were allowed a maximum of three toilet breaks a day for no more than five minutes per visit. “You must use the closest toilet and go directly there and back,” the policy read. When in the consequence rooms pupils could complete work they had brought themselves, but they did not have to.

Lawyers are seeking to challenge the legality of the use of the punishment for extended periods of time, the lack of teaching while children are in the rooms and the lack of oversight of the policy. Unlike with fixed-term exclusions, there is no limit on the number of days a child can spend in an isolation booth.

According to the trust’s data, released following a freedom of information request, approximately a third of the pupils at the school attended by the boy involved in the legal action had spent time in isolation in the previous year. The average total time pupils spent in isolation booths during the school year was about 15 days.

The mother of the student who is bringing the claim said: “No child should have to go through what my son has been through. He is not an easy boy, but the effect of the isolations on him have been devastating. Last year, he spent almost a third of his time at school in the booths. That is not what education is about. This has to change.”

A spokesperson for OGAT said: “In order to experience just half a day in our consequences room, where children are supported to reflect on their behaviour, a child will have ignored four warnings and have failed two separate detentions. We also apply reasonable adjustments and have a wealth of supportive and alternative intervention packages for those children who need additional support to manage their behaviour in school.”

Read the full article Pupil brings legal action against school’s isolation units

What are you thoughts about isolation units? Do they help or are they just a room to place disruptive pupils?  Please tell us in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Fiona Mahoney

    “Not an easy child” could be read as “persistently disrupts the learning of other pupils / has a lack of regard for rules / is disrespectful and/or abusive towards adults and other pupils,” (take your pick). In my vast experience and humble opinion, pupils are not isolated for not being “an easy child”. Schools are placed in an impossible position with young people who are disengaged, non-compliant and not accountable for their poor choices. Let us now turn the mirror over and cast it towards the parent and see what that throws up.

  2. Anonymous

    Fiona, I find your comments incredibly harsh and unforgiving. To me this story smacks of a school in which the management haven’t got the skills to work with “difficult” children. Sometimes those “difficult” children can turn out to be the most talented and the problem is that the school, through lack of expertise, are trying to stamp out any individuality or to insist on stupid rules. The narrowing of the curriculum and the intense focus on certain grades in tests are certain to alienate and antagonise some pupils. It is the system and the way that schools are judged which are the problems, combined with the increasing proportion of inexperienced or untrained teachers attempting to teach every larger classes to a curriculum which is inappropriate.

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