Belfast Telegraph

Schools operating 'secret discipline system' which isn't recorded by Education Department, claims Children's Commissioner

The Children's Commissioner has claimed that schools in Northern Ireland are operating a secretive discipline system that, in some cases, involves putting children in an "isolation room".

Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma made the claim on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show on Friday.

She said that schools should, in cases of recording discipline, operate either a formal exclusion system or suspension, which is recorded for the Department of Education.

However, the commissioner said schools were also operating "informal isolation" which excluded children for a period of time from lessons. Or they were given "internal suspension" which meant parents were "encouraged to keep their children out of school for a period of time".

She said her claim was based on information from parents.

"Both these systems are not recorded by the Department of Education," said Ms Yiasouma.

She said there were cases of children being placed in isolation rooms which breached a recommendation on the UN committee on the rights of the child.

"It absolutely should be stopped," she said.

"I am not happy with the isolation of children, but I understand the idea of time out and that's different.

"If we have a child who needs some time alone, that is fine. Time out may be necessary for them to do to calm down. If we have a child that is being kept out for long periods of time, then that is unacceptable.

"Schools need to discipline appropriately. But there is no one size fits all - isolation for minor breaches like school uniform is not ok.

"I am not going to tell teachers how to discipline.

"I want the Education Department informed by schools when this sort of discipline is being used and for them to make an assessment as to if another course of discipline could be used."

She appealed to parents whose children may be affected by the measure to contact her office.

"This needs to be properly monitored," she added, "Schools are not always willing to take us on, but we do get redress."

The Department of Education has been asked for a response.

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