Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and Alternative Provision
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 2.00 pm (Item 59.)
Presentation of Andrew Burton (Executive Headteacher) and Phil Hoyland (Partnership Development Lead)
This presentation highlights measures being taken to re-shape the Alternative Provision offer in Manchester in line with Manchester’s Inclusion Strategy.
The Committee received a presentation of Andrew Burton (Executive Headteacher) and Phil Hoyland (Partnership Development Lead) from the City of Manchester Learning Partnership which highlighted measures being taken to re-shape the Alternative Provision offer in Manchester in line with Manchester’s Inclusion Strategy.
The main points and themes within the report included:
- New developments at Manchester Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (MSPRU);
- Participation in the new DfE Alternative Provision Task Force; and
- The creation of a revised Alternative Provision Framework for Manchester High Schools.
Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- To welcome the work taking place;
- What work was being done with mainstream schools, particularly secondary schools, to help them support young people at an earlier stage so that they were not excluded;
- To request more information on how youth workers were involved in this work;
- Concern about the variability of the in-house support provided by different mainstream schools and how schools would be persuaded to improve the support provided; and
- Was the number of commissioned alternative provision places based on the data from 2019/2020 and what were the anticipated trends for the number of exclusions.
The Director of Education highlighted work to support pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs within mainstream schools. She informed Members about the Every Child Project, which was part of the Inclusion Strategy, and was gathering an evidence base for what worked for young people in secondary school, particularly focusing on the transition from Year 6 to Year 7. She advised that most Manchester secondary schools were looking at what support they could provide in-house instead of sending pupils to Alternative Provision and that part of the Inclusion Strategy was to look at what was working and to share good practice.
Phil Hoyland advised that the Inclusion Strategy had changed the attitudes of the leadership teams in a lot of schools, although they still faced the challenge of being held highly accountable for examination outcomes and destinations after leaving school. He reported that the hope was that the use of Alternative Provision would no longer be viewed as a punishment but as the school investing in something positive for that young person which could not be provided on site. He informed Members that the Bridgelea Primary PRU had a long history of providing outreach support to primary schools in Manchester and that work was now taking place to extend that outreach offer to secondary schools, including providing advice on in-house Alternative Provision.
Andrew Burton reported that the vast majority of children and young people should be in mainstream education, with a PRU or Alternative Provision for those young people who could not attend that mainstream provision, and that the focus should be on preventative work and short-term placements with the aim of re-integrating young people back into their mainstream school. He advised that it was important that work with these young people should be trauma-informed but also have high expectations for them. He informed the Committee that the aim of the current work was to reduce the number of PRU sites, improving the quality of provision, having more professionals co-located and improving the teaching offer, as this was currently variable across the different sites. He advised that there were about 15 youth workers within the PRU and that they played a vital role in nurturing relationships to enable young people to access the curriculum and succeed. He advised that, in future, their youth work expertise would continue to be used, but that this might be in a slightly different way, noting that they had developed additional school-based skills through their time working at the PRU. He reported that the number of places in the PRU was being reduced and that the number of children referred to the PRU had been lower in recent years, although this might have been due to the pandemic. He advised that there had been a slight increase in numbers recently and that it was the responsibility of all education partners to embrace the Inclusion Strategy and manage the system effectively.
The Chair expressed concern about the impact of poor behaviour on classes and on teachers trying to manage children with chaotic behaviour and advised that it was not possible for all children to remain in large, mainstream classes. Phil Hoyland recognised the pressure on teachers and the impact that a child with significant behavioural issues could have on a class and that for a small minority of children Alternative Provision was appropriate. In response to the question about how schools could be held to account regarding their provision, he reported that in 2019 the Ofsted Framework changed to be slightly less data driven and to focus on the school’s curriculum and that the new Framework was also clearer about off-rolling pupils and manipulating the system to remove pupils who it was felt would negatively affect assessment data. He advised that the plans outlined in the presentation would provide a stronger, more personalised Alternative Provision, improve outcomes and re-integration into mainstream schools and reduce the use of permanent exclusions.
The Secondary Teacher Representative outlined how her school’s inclusion centre, which offered in-house Alternative Provision, worked, advising that it worked well, although she felt it would be useful to have a specialist managing the centre.
To receive an update report in 12 months’ time.