Quick-Guide: Education after Exclusion and Alternative Provision

This Quick-Guide sets out the procedure for providing education to a young person once they have been excluded, and what young people can expect from alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. .

This Quick-Guide covers:

1. The requirement for an academy or local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. to provide education during and after exclusion;

Within the key points of The Guidance, there is a responsibility on an excluding school to take “reasonable steps” to provide work for the first five days of an exclusion and then to mark it and return feedback to the pupil. Whilst “reasonable steps” implies that there will be situations where a school does not have to comply, in reality, a school should have procedures in place to send work home and there should be a very good reason to justify a failure to do so.

From the sixth day of exclusion a school’s governing board must arrange for alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. to be made for the young person. In 2014, amendments to the Regulations established that these days should be calculated cumulatively, meaning that if a young person were excluded for six fixed terms of one day each, then on the sixth day the young person should have alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. arranged for them.

Some families might find that the school will not make these arrangements until an exclusion challenge has concluded. However, the 6th day of exclusion runs from the day the exclusion is implemented, not the day it is upheld by the governors or independent review panel.

Alternative provision of education for excluded students will typically take place in a pupil referral unit.

Some families will be anxious about attending alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. and some may decline to do so. Families should be aware that if they keep a young person at home whist they are registered at a pupil referral unit they may be committing a criminal offence. Parents and guardians must make sure a child gets full time education that meets their needs and if a child is not sent to school (including a pupil referral unit), the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. ’s education welfare officer may take action against the parents. Parents can be fined by the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. and Criminal proceedings may be brought against them as a result of not sending the child to school. If this is the case, they should seek the advice of a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

If a family has anxieties about alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. they should communicate these clearly to the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. as soon as possible, rather than simply waiting it out.

Practices vary between pupil referral units. However, it is fairly typical for families to be invited to speak with the headteacher or another member of staff and to look around the unit before their placement begins. It can be helpful for families to take this opportunity and attend a pupil referral unit and understand what if can offer the child. The service that units can offer varies and there will be cases where a family’s misgivings come from perception that is not a true picture of the provision.

2. What is alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. ?

Alternative provision is an umbrella term that includes a range of different kinds of learning placements. Some won’t take any excluded young people, others exist primarily to cater to excluded young people. The latter category are often called “pupil referral units”. However, the technical definition of a pupil referral unit is any school which the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. has established in order to provide education to children who are out of mainstream education due to illness or other reason.

There is often anxiety around a referral to alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. , and particularly pupil referral units. However, alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. centres, like any school, vary in quality and suitability to a given individual. Some young people will find their unit to be beneficial, whereas others might find the same provision to be unsuitable.

This resource will set out some of the fairly typical features of pupil referral units, and what a young person can expect on arrival. However, it cannot capture the spirit of every form of unit, nor can it provide advice on whether a PRU will be good for any particular young person's needs. Therefore, the most important thing is that families are encouraged to engage in the process of exploring the pupil referral unit they are referred to after an exclusion, see it and address concerns with the PRU’s administrators or the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. team.

Families may want to keep in mind that some schools are aware of the reputation around PRUs. they may rely on a negative perception of the PRU to encourage families to accept a managed move A process which moves a young person from the registration of one school to the registration of another by agreement between the family and the schools. or elective home education because families will know that the alternative is the PRU. This is an illegal practice for schools and, whilst families may still conclude that agreeing to a school’s request is in their best interests, they should only do so once they have a good understanding of what their PRU can offer and should never feel they must relent to pressure from the school to accept. If in doubt families should seek advice, speak with the local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. and visit with the PRU where appropriate.

The right to alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools.

Under section 19(3A) of the Education Act 1996, alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. should be provided to students “full time” for students of compulsory school age. Perhaps confusingly, there is not a statutory definition of what constitutes “full time”, so it may vary borough to borough. However, the government’s Statutory Guidance titled “Alternative Provision” explains at paragraph 7 that a young person should not receive less education than they would have received in a mainstream school. The same guidance explains that a local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. can make up full-time education by placing the young person in multiple part-time provisions.

Section 19(3AA) of the Education Act 1996 makes an exception for children who, “for reasons which relate to [their] physical or mental health”, it is not considered to be in their best interests to be provided full-time education.

There is a requirement that the education provided is “suitable”. Section 19 explains that this should mean that it is efficient education suitable to the young person’s “age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs [they] may have”.

For post 16 education local authorities have the power to provide alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. , rather than a duty to provide it.

Benefits of alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools.

Pupil referral units typically involve smaller class sizes. Students may receive a learning schedule tailored to them, rather than following one for all students. They may have access to more support from therapeutic and pastoral support workers and social services. Teachers are often trained to work with young people exhibiting behavioural difficulties.

Many pupil referral units offer courses on functional skills which can be of benefit to some students who require that support. They can also take more creative and bespoke approaches to addressing individual need which allows young people to have a course that is tailored for them.

Some young people will feel like alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. provides welcome relief from the pressure of large and demanding mainstream school, and delivers a learning environment that enables them to thrive with a less academic outcomes-oriented programme.

Drawbacks of alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools.

The drawbacks of alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. often come in the range of academic courses offered. PRUs do not have to follow the national curriculum and often focus on core subjects. Some only offer foundation GCSE papers. Statistics regarding attainment at key stage 4 demonstrate that only a very tiny proportion of children who take their GCSE exams in alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. will receive a set of marks in line with the national average. Students enrolled during their GCSE years should therefore be aware that this may impact their final GCSE outcomes, particularly considering that only around 45% of students enrolled at a PRU during key stage 4 will move back into mainstream school in time to sit their exams.

In addition, disruptive behaviour can be more commonplace in a PRU and some children may find that difficult to manage and distressing. Some children describe an increased presence of drugs, weapons and gang influences. Some children and young people have reported to Just for Kids Law that a process of “institutionalisation” occurs in pupil referral units. The National Crime Agency, NSPCC, Ofsted, Barnardos and the Children’s Commissioner have all acknowledged that young people in alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. are more vulnerable to criminal exploitation and some young people may require proactive safeguarding The process of protecting children and vulnerable people from harm. from gang influences and the threat of trafficking.

Additionally, some young people report a sense of isolation and stigma in alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. , which can exacerbate feelings of social exclusion and disillusionment. Some young people report that their sense of aspiration is undermined in alternative provision An education institution for students outside of mainstream and special schooling. Includes Pupil Referral Units and annexes to mainstream schools. by a relaxing of academic challenge and expectation. Many young people who are permanently excluded are eager to succeed academically and pursue a career of their choosing but feel that the shift in focus away from academics is an insurmountable hurdle to achieving their ambitions.

3. The option of pursuing a path back into mainstream provision

The bottom line is that some children will thrive in AP and others will not. However, even for those who do not, they may find that the quickest way back into mainstream school is by attending a pupil referral unit. PRUs are not intended to be an indefinite placement for pupils. Their purpose is to address behavioural difficulties and facilitate pupils’ move to their next permanent placement – whether that is mainstream education, a special school or some other form of provision. This requirement is set out in the Alternative Provision statutory guidance.

Some parents will opt to keep their children at home and make in-year applications to new mainstream schools from there. However, this may lead to a prolonged battle with a local authority A government organisation with jurisdiction over a local area such as a borough or county, often called a local council. Where multiple authorities overlap, the local education authority (LEA) has responsibility for excluded children. who may want to see a young person successfully complete a programme in a pupil referral unit before reintegrating them into mainstream schooling.