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Investigating Isolation

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by sarah_dann1, May 2, 2019.

  1. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Yesterday, there was a great deal of media coverage regarding the use of isolation in schools. The debate inevitably encompasses many different opinions and the term isolation can be interpreted in hugely different ways by schools.

    I would be really interested to hear how isolation is used (or not) in your school and your professional opinion on its use.
  2. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    I have worked in schools that have had very different approaches to this.

    In one school, isolation didn't exist at all and despite any concerns I had about its use, I found I really noticed the lack of a step between in-class sanctions and external exclusion. I found that disruptive behaviour that only due to its cumulative impact deserved short term removal from the classroom, yet was exhausting both teacher resources and student patience, was being allowed to continue. There simply wasn't a suitable step to take students out of the classroom when their behaviour - for any reason - meant that other students were being significantly disadvantaged. Perhaps this can be managed without the use of exclusion, but it wasn't in this school. For serious offences, sometimes external exclusion is suitable - to maintain student safety and to allow possible investigations to take place and to include the parents/carers in the actions of both student and school. However, keeping students in school should be a priority wherever possible and I do think that, given appropriate planning and resources, internal exclusion can achieve this.

    As the middle option, and probably the worst of all scenarios, one school had an isolation room which was managed by friendly TAs who would chat to the students. allow them to air their grievances at length and not enforce the completion of any work at all. It wasn't a punishment to be sent there, rather an easy option out of a class where work might have been demanded. Student runners would arrive at teachers' doors during lessons asking for work for the isolated student. Time was then taken away from 29+ other students whilst the teacher scrabbled around for a way to quickly condense the lesson's objectives into a simple and independent task. Without prior planning, this rendered the exercise pointless for everyone. Certain students inevitably spent a great deal of time there.

    At the other end of the scale, I have worked in a school which had an internal exclusion or isolation unit which was managed by full time non-teaching staff who were trained to manage vulnerable students. The room itself was admittedly bleak: segregated booths where students were expected to work in silence on meaningful tasks provided by the isolation team themselves - very often students who find themselves in isolation regularly have weak literacy and numeracy and useful banks of tasks can be made up to make the work completed there more effective and efficient. This was the punishment side of the action. Time there was intended to be a deterrent to future misbehaviour. However, there was also a strong emphasis on rehabilitation. Each student in isolation was allocated time to work through their tasks with an adult, to mediate with the teacher/s in whose lessons they were struggling and to have trained support to help work through the reason for their behaviour This school had the funding to make the system work. This isn't true for most schools.

    What is your experience? Do you support isolation?
  3. Jonesygirl

    Jonesygirl New commenter

    We do not have an isolation room, but we do have a pastoral hub, where, occasionally students are sent to work in isolation. This would usually be for unsafe behaviour, including physical violence.

    If a student is disrupting a lesson, usually a skilled member of the pastoral team or our behaviour support officer is sent in to support the student and staff. This support may include time out, refocusing time or another type of adjustment suitable for the student to support re-engagement.
    MrEsson likes this.
  4. tgom

    tgom New commenter

    We do have isolation, but it isn't really effective. A few repeat offenders cause disruption in class/school/are violent towards other pupils and are sometimes put in 'isolation'. Some isolation involves sitting in another classroom where there are other pupils; some involves being in a room with just a member of staff where he/she chats with the pupil involved; sometimes they sit at a table outside the Deputy and Assistant Heads' Office on full view of everyone. The SLT are supposed to deal with those that are in isolation, but they often pass the child on to someone else as they're 'busy'.
  5. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Really interesting to hear those two different experiences. Could I ask whether you work in urban or rural schools? I'm just curious because my experience is that in inner city schools there seems to be more money available for the "skilled member of the pastoral team" mentioned by @Jonesygirl and of course, this is a more effective method. Now I work in a rural setting and there's hardly the funding for a pastoral team, let alone any individualised isolation plans.
  6. tgom

    tgom New commenter

    Hi Sarah
    The school I work in is a middle school located in a large town in Morpeth, Northumberland. Other members of staff have asked for a specific isolation room and a much tougher approach, but the Head is not interested in doing it this way.
  7. Jonesygirl

    Jonesygirl New commenter

    Sorry, just seen your question! We are an SEN school with students from a large catchment area.
  8. sarah_dann1

    sarah_dann1 Occasional commenter TES Behaviour peer advisor

    Thanks for giving us those insights. Interesting that perhaps with students who have additional needs, it is recognised that a purely punitive system doesn't work and staff are (hopefully) better trained and supported to give that personalised touch.

    @tgom Sorry to hear this. It is so frustrating when teachers can see the need for change but are not able to implement it. Do you have any sort of staff forum where it might be appropriate to push the issue? Do you think there would be support from parents?
  9. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    cf thread on internal exclusion

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