Thursday, 23 February 2012

SEN and Alternative Provision

The committee had a discussion about the various consultations on SEN and Alternative Provision- especially the Government's assault on PRUs.

The committee noted that this approach denigrates the performance of PRUs and teachers in PRUs. The NUT has 1,190 members in PRUs.

In 2009/10, 5,020 pupils were permanently excluded from their secondary school. Most were sent to alternative provision such as pupil referral units. The Government is regularly quoting the figure that 'only 1.4 per cent of pupils in alternative provision achieve five good GCSEs including maths and English'. The Government says that "this is not good enough".

Schools Minster Nick Gibb has said: "The quality of education for permanently excluded children is so poor that scarcely any achieve the minimum level of qualifications they need to succeed".

Pupil referral units are hugely under-valued. PRU teachers are expert at engaging vulnerable and disaffected children and young people, and those with medical needs, and working to engage their parents and carers. Teachers plan work carefully so that it relates to pupils' specific needs. PRU teachers and other PRU staff also carry out a significant amount of work with families and liaising with other agencies including housing and social services. They also provide outreach on behaviour and support to mainstream schools. None of this seems to be recognised by the Government.

Inspections data reveals that pupil referral units are very effective, although this is not publicised.

Between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011, 65 per cent of PRUs were judged to be 'good' or 'outstanding', compared with 52 per cent of mainstream secondary schools. The proportion of PRUs believed by Ofsted to be 'inadequate' was the same as the proportion of mainstream schools.

Inspectors are required to have enhanced training by Ofsted before inspecting pupil referral units in recognition of the unique nature of pupil referral units. Guidance for inspectors who inspect PRUs says that they must consider how achievement and progress relate to pupils' starting point and how behaviour is improving over time. There is a question about who will inspect the quality of provision made by school for excluded pupils - currently the inspection system recognises that inspectors need enhanced training to carry this out effectively.

The Government does not recognise that PRUs are very good value for money for the taxpayer and are the right setting for meeting the needs of excluded pupils.

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