Ofsted and the Department for Education should tell schools that it is not acceptable to put children in “intolerable” isolation booths, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Anne Longfield called for updated DfE guidance on the practice when she gave evidence to MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee this morning.
She said children had told her they felt “very anxious” and “distressed” about isolation booths. They also said the booths would “probably be one of the last things to benefit them” if they had been sent there because of behaviour problems.
“I would like the DfE and Ofsted to be much clearer that it is not acceptable to put children in this intolerable position,” she added.
Ms Longfield said she will be looking at this issue “in some depth” this year as part of work about what makes a good school.
Emma Hardy, a former teacher and Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, asked what impact the use of isolation booths was having on the number of parents choosing to home educate their children.
Ms Longfield replied: “I think it’s having a big impact. Usually, that decision isn’t taken lightly.
“It comes at the end of weeks if not months of phone calls from the school and children being very, very upset and distressed about their experience in school, and often they will talk about that period in isolation, some of which can be a week long.”
Ms Longfield said she had heard of teachers having their classrooms taken off them to be made into isolation booths, which she described as “some of the most negative things you could do”.
The children’s commissioner called for the DfE to update guidance in this area.
She added: “When Ofsted go in and inspect a school with their new framework, I think they should be asking questions around isolation, asking questions about wellbeing of children, asking questions about the monitoring of the impact of those treatments on children.
“I welcome that new framework for Ofsted, but I want them to use it and use it boldly.
“The majority of schools do not have this kind of behaviour policy, but for those that do... [Ofsted should] be very clear that it’s not what they are looking for in a 'good' school, and that’s a message that I don’t think we’ve heard yet.”