Schools are putting disruptive pupils in toilet cubicles converted into isolation booths, the Children’s Commissioner claims.
Anne Longfield said such children increasingly faced the ‘degrading’ experience of being kept away from their classmates for weeks on end.
Critics say the use of isolation booths and rooms – silent spaces where misbehaving children are sent for punishment – could harm pupils’ mental health and does not deal with underlying issues.
Disruptive school pupils are being kept in isolation booths such as these although critics claim this can affect the mental health of those who are kept away from their friends in class
Miss Longfield, who is the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘I get to hear about children who have spent long periods of time in isolation rooms.
‘They have told us that they find it distressing and degrading.
‘They said they feel like they are being warehoused in isolation, and they say sometimes it’s for days or weeks at a time.
‘I was told of a school where they were converting a toilet section into isolation booths – and the comment there was it was very handy because they had already got the cubicles.’
Advocates say isolation is the only practical way to spare other pupils from having classes disrupted.
However, the Centre for Mental Health charity warned this month that the practice could make a challenging child’s behaviour worse.
In a report, it claimed exclusion and seclusion could exacerbate the effects of traumatic experiences in a pupil’s home life, while physical restraint could echo any physical or sexual abuse. It added: ‘As a result, these interventions may cause harm and potentially drive even more challenging behaviour.’
A BBC News investigation found that more than 200 pupils had spent at least five consecutive days in isolation in English schools in 2017.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Miss Longfield cited one school that used a ‘cardboard booth which they just put over the child wherever they were sitting’.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘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. 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.’