Education law experts welcome Academy Trust review into ‘worrying use’ of isolation booth punishment

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Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

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We were approached and instructed to take legal action by a mother who was concerned about her son who attended at a secondary school in Yorkshire.

The secondary school in question was run by Outwood Grange Academies Trust which is a multi-academy Trust that operates a number of schools with academy status across Northern England and the East Midlands.

Our client expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the use of isolation booths by Outwood Grange Academies Trust as a method of punishment. The isolation booths are spaces within “consequences rooms” in which children are told to sit in silence for hours as a punishment for breaking the school rules.

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Our Client's Situation

Our client reported that her son, who cannot be named due to his age and general confidentiality purposes, was kept in an isolation booth at his school in Yorkshire for up to 35 days. She reported that the impact on him had been devastating after he spent approximately one third of his time at school in 2018 in one of the isolation booths.

During their time in an isolation booth, students could complete work that they had brought themselves if they wished to do so however there was no obligation on them to do so. No teaching took place during their time in the isolation booth and they would only be allowed a maximum of three toilet breaks every day for no more than five minutes during every single visit. Even then, each toilet break must be to the nearest bathroom.

In a behaviour policy from March 2018, Outwood Grange Academies Trust said that pupils must not “tap, chew, swing on their chairs, shout out, sigh, or any other unacceptable or disruptive behaviour” in the rooms. Additionally, they were banned from putting their head on the desk, sleeping or communicating with other pupils. At lunch time, they had to be escorted to lunch and eat in silence.

Proceedings were raised in November and December in 2018 when a Judicial Review was submitted in a bid to challenge the use of the sanction for extended periods of time as well as the lack of teaching whilst in the booths, the lack of procedural safeguards and the conditions that children were subjected to.

The Planned Review

Martyn Oliver, Chief Executive for the Outwood Grange Academies Trust, commenting on the planned review 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.”

He went on to say that the trust’s behaviour policy was helping teachers to transform the life chances of thousands of largely working-class children across the north of England and that it ensured pupils were “cared for but not able to disrupt the learning of all the other pupils”.

Oliver said that Ofsted had now deemed 11 of the 12 schools that the Trust took over under special measures to be “outstanding” or “good”. He said:

“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.”

Additionally, a spokesperson for the Outwood Grange Academies Trust has commented on it’s practices and stated that they were “part of a supportive and inclusive behaviour strategy" to ensure that children can learn in a “safe and constructive environment”. They went on to say:

“We believe that the impact of a structured and consistent behaviour policy ... is undeniably positive.

"The schools we have sponsored have all seen significant improvements in the outcomes for students.

"It should be noted that students are never left alone and are supervised by trained colleagues at all times."

“Our staff go and work in some of the toughest schools in the country to support and care for children, and our schools have never been more popular with parents, with many currently full and being asked by local authorities to admit over their capacity.”

Our Client's Response

In response, our client stated:

“No child should have to go through what my son has been through.”

"He is not an easy boy, but the effect of the isolations on him have been devastating and have had a significant effect on him.”

"Last year he spent almost a third of his time at school in the booths. That is not what education is about. This has to change."

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, our expert team of Education Lawyers may be able to assist. If your child has informed you of any practices, or if you have become aware of any practices, exactly like or similar to the ones implemented at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.

Our team of Education Lawyers have years of experience in dealing with cases concerning education and achieving a positive outcome. We want to help you get what’s best for your child. Our friendly and approachable team can be contacted on 0808 239 1287 for further information or you can request a call back.


uk. (n.d.). Children with special educational needs: extra SEN help. Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

(n.d.). Schoolboy takes legal action over isolation room. Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

BBC News. (n.d.). Academy 'considering' isolation unit criticisms. Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

The Guardian. (2019, January 30). Legal action prompts academy to consider isolation unit criticisms. Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

(n.d.). Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Education Law Solicitors. Available at: (Accessed: 15/12/2023).

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

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