Overhaul of alternative provision to fix ‘broken system’ and improve standards for vulnerable and disadvantaged children

Carpetright store after UK riots in Tottenham, London by Alan Stanton

Carpetright store after UK riots in Tottenham, London by Alan Stanton

New teachers to train as behaviour specialists in Pupil Referral Units.
Ofsted to challenge schools on their use of alternative provision.
Pupil Referral Units to benefit from academy freedoms.

A new generation of teachers will be trained in managing disruptive behaviour under new proposals set out today by Charlie Taylor, the Government’s Expert Adviser on behaviour.

From this September, for the first time ever, new trainee teachers will be allowed to do some of their teacher training in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), where children excluded from mainstream education are taught. They will be able to develop key skills in managing disruptive behaviour.

Publishing his independent review into alternative provision, Charlie Taylor also calls for outstanding PRUs to take advantage of academy freedoms so they can help drive up quality of provision and develop closer relationships with schools in their area.

He also recommends that where PRUs are failing, they are taken over by successful PRUs, successful alternative providers, or by academy sponsors. This will mean that by 2018, poor quality PRUs will have either been taken over or closed. In addition, any new provision should be set up as either an academy or free school.

Figures published for the first time last year show that in 2009/10, only 1.4 per cent of pupils in alternative provision achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A*-C, or equivalent, including English and mathematics. This compares with 53.4 per cent in all schools in England.

The review into alternative provision in England was commissioned by Education Secretary Michael Gove in the wake of the summer riots last year. Of children involved in the riots and brought before the courts, two thirds had Special Educational Needs and on average missed almost one day of school a week. They were also more likely to live in the 10 per cent lowest income areas, to be receiving free school meals and to have been excluded from school at least once.

Charlie Taylor said:

We currently have a flawed system that fails to provide suitable education and proper accountability for some of the most vulnerable children in the country. If we fail to give them a first-class education then, as the events of this summer showed, we will all pay a heavy price.

By freeing outstanding alternative provision providers to do what they do best and share this with others, we can ensure we drive up standards. A new breed of teachers trained in the specialist behaviour management will help improve alternative provision and then act as a specialist cadre of teachers sharing their skills with others in the profession.

The other main recommendations from the independent review include:

  • Ensuring that all children in alternative provision continue to receive appropriate and challenging English and Maths teaching.
  • Schools rather than local authorities should become responsible for commissioning alternative provision and PRU services. This will help ensure provision better meets the needs of children and schools can intervene at an earlier stage. This is currently being trialled in a pilot by the Department with some schools in relation to excluded pupils.
  • Schools should share all relevant information about the pupil they are sending to alternative provision with providers, agree the nature of the intervention and set targets for the pupil. Progress should be regularly monitored and plans put in place for the next stage in the child’s life.
  • The Department for Education should commission a payment by results trial for alternative provision. This will help develop greater diversity of provision which will help drive up standards for children. A trial would aim to start in 2012/13 and the Department will be setting out further details in the coming months.
  • Schools should look at using money they currently spend on alternative provision to build up their capacity for managing pupils’ behaviour. By intervening earlier and using more focussed placements in alternative provision, schools can better cater for children’s needs.
  • Ofsted should challenge schools on their use of alternative provision. The new school inspection framework provides a useful opportunity for close and consistent attention on how well schools meet the needs of children through alternative provision. To reinforce this, Ofsted should consider a more structured approach to monitoring alternative provision through its survey programme.
  • Ofsted should improve its intelligence gathering on poor practice – they should make sure that information on poor practice by commissioning schools and alternative provision providers is shared effectively within Ofsted and informs decisions about inspections.

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