Alternative provision

Document type
Report
Corporate author(s)
Great Britain. Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (England)
Publisher
Ofsted
Date of publication
20 June 2011
Subject(s)
Education and Skills, Children and Young People
Collection
Social welfare
Material type
Reports

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For the purpose of this survey, alternative provision was defined as something in which a young person participates as part of their regular timetable, away from the site of the school or the pupil referral unit and not led by school staff. Schools use such provision to try to prevent exclusions, or to re-engage students in their education. This survey includes within its scope both secondary schools and pupil referral units as commissioners or users of a range of the alternative placements. The aim of this survey was to analyse the elements of successful alternative provision.

Between September and December 2010, inspectors visited 23 schools and academies and 16 pupil referral units to explore their use of alternative provision. The schools and units were located in both urban and rural areas, varied in size and composition, and were only included in the survey if they were providing alternative provision to more than one student in Key Stage 4. At their previous Ofsted inspection none had been found inadequate. The survey visit was followed up with visits to 61 alternative provision placements that were being attended by students from the schools or units surveyed. The students’ placements were varied and included practical courses in motor mechanics or hairdressing, work placements in shops and old people’s homes, and experiences in music studios and on farms. The students surveyed spent between half a day and five days out of school each week attending such provision.

Alternative provision is a largely uninspected and unregulated sector. Beyond pupil referral units and other full-time provision, there is no requirement for the majority of alternative providers to register with any official body and no consistent arrangements to evaluate their quality. Of the 61 providers visited for the survey, only 17 were subject to any inspection regime. In some cases students do not gain accredited qualifications during their placement, so results are often not available as a measure of quality either.

At its best, alternative provision was selected carefully by schools and units, was used well to support learners as part of their whole curriculum, and was valued by the students. Such placements helped to re-engage students in learning. Where communication was good, the school or unit shared relevant information with the provider and agreed what information the provider would collect to show a student’s progress. However, in some cases the schools and pupil referral units saw alternative provision as very separate from their own work and as a last resort for a challenging student. These schools and units were less effective at fitting placements into the rest of their students’ timetables, and made poor arrangements for them to catch up with work they had missed from their core subjects. In too many cases there was no transfer of written information about the students’ needs from the schools to the providers. Where communication between schools and alternative providers was weak, the providers lacked the information that they needed to work effectively with the student, and the schools did not know enough about their student’s progress.

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