Parents in uproar over isolation units

15th June 2007 at 01:00
PARENTS HAVE attacked the use of school isolation rooms, branding them unnecessary, stressful and even a "breach of human rights" in comments posted on the Government's Parentscentre site.

The units are used by an increasing number of schools to separate pupils who are seriously disruptive. But they have been attacked by parents as "psychological abuse".

"My daughter was not allowed to talk to anyone, had to face the wall and work from worksheets all day," wrote one angry parent whose child had been sent to isolation for missing a detention.

"Lunch was brought to her and she was allowed to go to the toilet only when other children were in lessons. To me this seems like solitary confinement."

Margaret Morrissey, chair of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said such units made children feel "isolated, stressed and frightened" and should not be condoned by mainstream schools.

But some say the units are the only way to control unruly pupils.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there were widespread misconceptions about the rooms - their main aim was to give angry children space.

"Without them, there would be a lot more exclusions," he said. "They are to stop pupils boiling into a rage and disrupting lessons for others."

Isolation units have gained rapidly in popularity over the past few years.

With no central guidance on how they should be implemented, they range from screened-off booths, which children are forbidden to leave for a day or more, to relaxing "chill-out rooms" with computers and music. Pupils will generally be supervised by one or more support staff.

Pool Business and Enterprise College in Cornwall has run its inclusion rooms for nearly a year. Disruptive children are sent to the unit the day after a disruption, to work for five hours in silence and for a maximum of three days.

Jeremy Rowe, the deputy head, said the tight system meant the room was not merely a "sin bin".

"It has meant kids at the sharp end think twice," he said.

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