More funding needed to stop the 'misuse' of isolation Internal exclusion units in schools

Video report by Tasha Kacheri

School rooms "like a prison" used to counter misbehaviour are at risk of being 'misused' and can have a negative impact on young people's learning, campaigners say.

Isolation rooms, or removal or even consequence rooms, are meant to be for disruptive pupils for limited periods.

They are a behaviour management tool but their use has divided opinion - with several campaign groups, including UNICEF, worried they are being misused.

Teaching unions say that if schools were adequately funded - challenging pupils could be supported, rather than isolated.

Noah Jackson has just finished college and admits to being the class clown at school.

He spent a lot of time in his school's isolation room and describes it as prison-like, he said: "It's six hours of sitting in a room facing the wall".

Children can be sent there for anything from something as small as wearing the wrong uniform to fighting.

There is no data on how many isolation rooms are in the North West, how many children go in each year, or what backgrounds those children come from so that we can get a better understanding of what is happening.

But we do know that most schools across our region do have an isolation room of some form.

New guidance from the Department for Education was brought in in July 2022 which means this data can now be collected as of September.

Jason and Liam experienced removal rooms throughout their school days, their names and voices have been changed - Jason says that he spent most of Year 10 in isolation.

"Half of the people who were with me in isolation are in jail, and it's the same management of all the jail. It's how they forecast it on you," he says.

"So with you getting that drilled into you when you're a kid, the only thing you're going to think of when you get older is that."

Retired teacher Elizabeth Jane Abrams Campaigns against isolation rooms in schools, she says kids being badly behaved is not a good enough reason to isolate them.

She said: "Having been on that side of the desk, I know that it can be a huge nuisance, but I'll guarantee there's always a story behind that bad behaviour.

"And that's the story that needs finding out. And unfortunately, it needs time and it needs care. And neither are readily available, especially with the real, real pressures teachers are under to achieve."

Parents and some teachers feel the regulations for isolation rooms were not clear.

The Department for Education said: “Our newly updated Behaviour in Schools guidance, written after a public consultation, supports headteachers by clearly setting out best practice on the use of removal from classrooms.

“Our updated guidance makes clear what removal is, what it can be used for, and how it should be used. This is to maintain the safety of all pupils and restore calm following severe disruption.

“We trust headteachers to set appropriate behaviour policies in their schools, including the use of removal rooms.”

Peter Middleman from the National Education Union thinks there needs to be more funding to support young people to improve things.

He said: "Students that might be disruptive in class might therefore become easy targets for removal with the best interests of the other students in mind.

"The important thing is that schools are still underfunded to the tune of £3 billion a year compared to 2010.

"Too many of our schools put simply, are still in a position where they haven't got the resources to employ adequate numbers of skilled staff to ensure that children with challenging behaviours and different needs are able to access a good quality education in a mainstream school."

Dr Leanne Short from Aroa Educational Psychology Services says isolation rooms are ineffective and are often misused: "Often it is the same young people that are sent to isolation rooms time and time again, which indicates that they are not learning from their behavior because the support isn't there to enable them to do that.

"So then what we see is that repeat behaviour will happen again. And so that indicates that the use of isolation rooms are very ineffective."