catherine delahunty green mp

Seclusion rooms in schools

Schools are undoubtedly stretched and underfunded to cope with students with high learning support needs. But this cannot justify the use of rooms (or cupboards) as spaces to forcibly isolate children. It has emerged via media that this practice continues in some schools for some children with learning support needs and children whose behaviour has caused an issue in class.


The response from Government is that they are working on some guidelines but cannot require schools to report on this. It is strange how they can require schools to enforce National Standards but not a child rights-based approach in a school. The “Seclusion and Restraint” guidelines being proposed have been under discussion for a long time. People who were consulted by Government are wondering why this has not been completed, rolled out and supported with training.There are many strategies for dealing with the complex issues some children experience, including understanding the triggers for the child to have “meltdowns” which are associated with the Autism Spectrum. There are many pressures on teachers who have diverse groups of children to teach.

There are many strategies for dealing with the complex issues some children experience, including understanding the triggers for the child to have “meltdowns” which are associated with the Autism Spectrum. Teachers face multiple pressures given the diverse groups of children they teach. But forcible isolation is not an acceptable strategy. There is urgent necessity for skilled teachers and teachers’ aides who understand the diversity of learning support needs and some of the behaviours that are challenging in classrooms.

Many schools do their utmost to be inclusive of all children rather than using “seclusion”. They might have a quiet space for a child who needs time-out from group pressures, but it’s not forcible isolation. Some schools work with the child to design what helps them feel safe and supported. This should be universal. The government should meet the challenge set by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and fulfill the following recommendations:

(a) Adopt a comprehensive, child rights and participatory approach to the fulfilment of the rights of children with disabilities and ensure that the Disability Action Plan takes into account the needs of these children;

(b) Strengthen its efforts to combat the marginalization and discrimination of children with disabilities in their access to health, education, care and protection services, with particular attention to Maori children with disabilities, children with disabilities living in poverty and children with multiple disabilities, and undertake awareness-raising campaigns aimed at government officials, the public and families to combat the stigmatization of and prejudice against children with disabilities and promote a positive image of these children;

(c) Set up comprehensive measures to develop inclusive education and ensure that inclusive education is given priority over the placement of children in separated institutions and classes, and that families of children with disabilities are aware of the services to which they are entitled;

(g) Establish a system for the regular and systematic collection of comprehensive and disaggregated data on children with disabilities, necessary for putting in place appropriate policies and programmes.