There would be an argument in favour of the use of isolation rooms or cubicles for troublesome young people in school if there was any evidence that they worked (Alarm as more schools use ‘degrading’ isolation booths, 18 January). In fact there appears to be no such evidence. The evidence that we do have is that teachers who use praised-based strategies to improve pupils’ behaviour in class experience far fewer disruptive incidents and hence less need to be punitive. Yes, it is important and indeed necessary for any disruptive pupil to face a consequence as a result of their behaviour, but evidence suggests that effective punishments tend to be mild and irksome in nature, such as being kept back at the end of lessons, short detentions at end of the day and having their parents informed of their misbehaviour.
If strategies used by teachers and schools were evidence-based we would have much happier schools, teachers, pupils and parents. Isolation units do not work.
Dr Jeremy Swinson
Educational psychologist, Liverpool
• Sally Weale’s article reports on this shocking problem, but none of her interviewees seem to suggest any plausible solutions. I believe that there are underlying issues that need to be addressed before we adopt the widespread use of isolation booths.
First, interested children don’t misbehave, so should the current GCSE curriculum be imposed on all children? A child can equally well learn a wide range of subjects through practical activities if well-planned. Second, it would appear that the recently introduced academy system is encouraging fierce competition between some schools, resulting in a high number of expulsions and alternative punishment arrangements. Third, is there a relationship between indiscipline and newly qualified teachers, which indicates that our training programmes need to be reviewed? Fourth, should more consideration be given to home visits by teachers with good people skills? Finally, under the academy system there is no longer a built-in support system for struggling teachers or schools with an unsatisfactory Ofsted report.
Many years ago I taught building construction and a history of the boer war to different classes of 15-year-old boys and I can relate interest to behaviour.
County education adviser (retired), Winchester
• Perhaps the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, should consider a little more the welfare of the well-behaved children in our schools. Why should their education be put at risk by the badly behaved minority? Disruptive pupils often inhibit the learning of others, destroy harmony in the classroom and sometimes make a teacher’s job impossible. If these children find the consequences of their behaviour uncomfortable, there is a simple remedy: stop being disruptive and start behaving in a civilised manner.
The important thing to remember is that no learning takes place in a noisy, uncontrolled classroom. Parents need to take responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring.
• It’s a shock to see the isolation booths. When I taught in a school for children with behavioural difficulties, with 10 children in a class, I used an old puppet theatre as a unit, that we called a “study”, in the classroom. A small desk fitted inside. The curtains could be closed or open. We had to have a rotation of all the children, one day at a time, to sit in there to work by themselves. They loved it, because it isolated them from the dynamics of the classroom. Even with a fight going on between a couple of comrades, the child in the “study” just carried on regardless. So many children need this isolation, but it needs to be treated as a privilege, not a punishment.
Forest Row, East Sussex
• The use of crude responses to behaviour in schools such as isolation booths demonstrates the dearth of expertise of those who use them. The fact that they are supported by the government’s behaviour “tsar”, Tom Bennett, is particularly depressing. It would be better if the successful proactive, supportive strategies of the best inner-city schools, those with few behaviour problems despite their catchments, were implemented in the isolation booth schools instead.
Former head of a behavioural support centre, Stratford-upon-Avon
• One of the most effective ways of dealing with disaffected students is to give them the opportunity to talk issues through. That requires engagement, not isolation. It also requires a space where that can happen. Containing a disaffected student in an isolation booth the size of a toilet cubicle (whether converted or not) makes that necessary dialogue impossible.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
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