The principle is understandable. There needs to be a penalty for disruptive behavior in the classroom. In this instance, the penalty is to be shoved into isolation for hours, perhaps days at a time. In some cases, allegedly, weeks. No social interaction whatsoever. Just sit and do work - or sleep, or whatever, so long as it's quiet.
Image taken from the Guardian
Problem being that disruptive behavior can mean anything. It can mean mental health issues, learning disabilities, not wearing the right shoes, talking out of turn. In a BBC study, one student was put in isolation after contracting fibromyalgia. Given that schools are graded by academic performance, there must be a strong temptation to put underperforming students in isolation, as a first step to easing them out of the school altogether.
There's enough demand for booths to inspire its own cottage industry, at £175 a throw. It's the numbers that enthrall me. Imagine the school that needs a hundred units worth of isolation booths. How many disruptive pupils can any one school have? How many isolation rooms - not booths, rooms - can any school need?
There's a short step from this to Esoterror.
The Summer of the Kooks
The OV's attention is drawn to the problem by a whistleblower in the school system, or a member of a pressure group like Lose the Booths.
Pupils across the UK are vanishing. There are always runaways, always heartbreaking little mysteries, but this seems different. The numbers are higher than usual but, more than that, the kids who vanish share similar symptoms - dizziness, lethargy, unwillingness to communicate, except on one topic. They all seem fascinated by someone they call Little Man, who makes all kinds of promises - happiness, sunshine, play, all the best things. Anything's better than the dark little isolation booth they regularly get shoved into at school.
At the same time, there's also a sharp uptick in unexplained deaths. Messy, gory deaths. A few teachers, a PCSO, some parents of missing children, some children. Not enough in any one place to draw official suspicion, but always the same small details. It happens in or near school. There are no witnesses, electronic or otherwise - cameras always seem to be broken, or recordings wiped. There's always something missing, usually noses, ears, in one case bearded cheeks and chin. Bitten off, it looks like.
In one case a victim, before she died, sent a text to her sister that said Picture for yourselves a little man, broader than he is tall, tender and greasy like a ball of butter, with a rosy face, a small, constantly laughing mouth and a thin, adorable voice of a cat wishing all the best to its master. Which is a quote from Pinocchio, in the original Italian, about the Coachman who whisks naughty children off and turns them into donkeys, to be sold. The Coachman in the story had a habit of disciplining his donkeys by biting their ears off - some distance from Disney's round-faced unctuous Cockney.
Odd coincidence, as it happens, since the schools affected all have isolation booths with colorful murals on the walls, scenes out of Pinocchio's Land of Toys. There, at the back of the picture, sits a cheerful little butterball with a cat's grin.
For the Kooks aren't coming out of the woods this time. They're coming out of those pretty murals, and there are so very many of them now …