Chesterfield school's trust set to undertake review of 'isolation booths' after legal challenge

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A Chesterfield school's trust is to review its use of ‘isolation booths’ following a legal challenge.

In November law firm Simpson Millar were instructed to take legal action against Outwood Grange Academies Trust - which includes Outwood Academy Newbold - amid ‘grave concerns’ about the use of isolation booths.

Simpson Millar applied for a judicial review on behalf of a mum of a 14-year-old boy who attended one of the Trust’s schools in Yorkshire.

The concerns related to the use of the sanction for extended periods of time, as well as claims regarding the lack of teaching while in the booths, the lack of procedural safeguards, and the conditions pupils are subjected to.

Following the launch of the legal action, Outwood Grange Academies Trust has now pledged to review their practice, taking into account all of the issues raised by law firm Simpson Millar in the judicial review application.

Dan Rosenberg, solicitor at Simpson Millar’s education team, said: “We are pleased that Outwood Grange is conducting a review taking our points on-board, and expect this to lead to changes that will mean that the treatment suffered by our client and many other children is not repeated. Anything less would be very concerning.
“The use of isolation booths is a worrying practice. Large numbers of children are having their education blighted by the widespread and extended use of this punishment. Spending time in these booths is demeaning and not natural for children. “

He added: “We have grave concerns that the students involved are missing large amounts of education, and that there is a lack of procedural safeguards and review mechanisms, as well as a lack of monitoring of the use of the sanction by central government.

“We are glad that this academy chain is rethinking their approach, but we hope that central government will take more of an interest in a practice that is still being used around the country.”

“A spokesperson for Outwood Grange Academies Trust said: "In our planned annual review of our behaviour policy, which was always due to take place for March 2019, we will take on board the views of a range of stakeholders, as we always have.

"Our existing policy includes multi-agency interventions to provide holistic support for the children who struggle to meet the standards our parents rightly expect. It ensures that they are cared for but not able to disrupt the learning of all the other pupils.

"This behaviour policy is helping our teachers transform the life chances of thousands of largely working class children across North England. In our 31 schools, the number of children passing GCSE English and Maths has soared from 44 per cent to 72 per cent. For its part Ofsted has found that 11 of the 12 schools we took over in ‘special measures’ are now ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’. This has come despite our intake of children who are disadvantaged or have special needs increasing.

"What we find both shocking and depressing is that such large improvements are so simple to achieve. So many children have been let down."