Alex Sobel is calling for a ban of isolation booths, a controversial method used by some schools to manage and punish disruptive behaviour.
The booths are usually three-sided cubicles in which children are made to look straight ahead and stay silent for up to seven hours at a time. Lunch must be eaten in the booth and may mean a child is not entitled to a hot school meal. Some schools also limit the number of toilet breaks a pupil is allowed while in isolation.
One Freedom of Information request by the BBC revealed that 500 schools use isolation booths and that 200 children had spent more than five consecutive days in isolation in the past year. Critics argue that the booths are in breach of the UN charter on the rights of the child and that their use is heavy handed and unnecessary.
Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, said:
“I’ve had contact from parents in my constituency whose children have been sent to isolation booths for minor infractions. The punishment is often used for children with special educational needs in lieu of proper behavioural support. There is no doubt in my mind that the use of isolation booths has been fuelled by a decade of cuts to education funding and a reduction in support staff and other resources. It is being used as a low-cost solution to managing pupils, many of whom have additional needs, and they are completely unfit for purpose."
Many parents worry about the impact of isolation booths on pupils’ mental health, particularly after the case of a girl who attempted suicide after being put in an isolation booth by her school in Kent for more than a month.
Paul Dix, who heads the #BantheBooths campaign said:
“There is no evidence that booths or extended isolation has any positive effect on behaviour. There is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. There are some extremely successful schools working in challenging circumstances who have no isolation booths and manage behaviour superbly. We also believe that the booths are disproportionately occupied by children with Special Needs and BAME children. I’m pleased that Mr Sobel is supporting our campaign and hope that other politicians follow suit.”