Engaging with Alternative Provision… the story so far

Posted 12th January 2021

Vicci Wells, YST National Manager - Targeted Interventions, shares learnings on Alternative Provision.

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“For our pupils; activities that encourage teamwork and provide opportunities for them to succeed have the greatest impact. we passionately believe our pupils will succeed and provide a range of experiences; setting high standards through sport to make this a reality.”
Bob Callaghan, Head of School, Midpoint Centre, Wolverhampton

Having sat on several exclusion panels as both a Multi Academy Trustee and school governor,  spending the last three years researching rising exclusion in England, and working with both Head Teachers and MAT CEOs in Alternative Provision, I have seen the patterns that lead to children being asked to leave their schools.

 A common thread is trauma; invariably the root cause of the challenging behaviour that can spiral to exclusion. Recent research indicates a rise in primary pupils educated in schools for excluded pupils, (with nearly 6000 five-ten-year olds in this position) and in the DfE Children in Need Review it highlights that before the pandemic 1 in 10 children needed a social worker at some point. Yet now, during COVID-19, there are increasing concerns about mental health problems and trauma being exacerbated for young people. With families losing work, experiencing bereavement, anxiety and living in cramped conditions pending the local tier restrictions and full lockdowns, Head Teachers have highlighted the significant rise in safeguarding concerns  and this has also been referenced in the annual Ofsted Report with Amanda Spielman stating that ‘school closures during the first national lockdown had a ‘dramatic impact’ on the number of child protection referrals made to local authorities. 

So what does the current exclusion landscape look like in our schools?

  • 81% of all permanent exclusions are secondary
  • 25% of all permanent exclusions are for pupils aged 14, with boys 3x more likely to be excluded than girls.
  • Specific ethnic groups are more at risk of exclusion, particularly Mixed White and Black Caribbean, and Black Caribean pupils (nearly 3x higher than white British pupils)
  • SEN accounts for almost 50% of all permanent and fixed term exclusions
  • Pupils with SEN support are 7x more likely to receive a permanent exclusion
“There are longstanding trends that children with SEN are more likely to be excluded, both for a fixed period and permanent that those who do not have SEN.”

With 1 in every 200 young people in England educated outside of mainstream or SEN schools, and 40 children told each day to leave; the extrapolated costs for excluded children are worth more than £2.4 billion in education, health benefits and criminal justice system alone. There is a real case that school exclusion can often lead to social exclusion[1]. 

Through the School Games we have worked with 8 areas across the country through a network of highly specialised inclusive schools (mainstream, special and Alternative Provision) across England. Initial findings in 2017-18 demonstrated that there were thousands of pupils in schools, often our most vulnerable young people, not necessarily having access to the same opportunities as their peers nationally. This project focused on how school sport can engage these pupils through developing trust, belonging, teamwork and empathy.

To date, this work has created: 

  • A guide to engaging Alternative Provision authored with Alternative Provision schools and includes 10 Top Tips for SGOs (found on your School Games dashboard). 
  • A series of case studies detailing the impact for pupils from Alternative Provision having been engaged in the School Games from London, North Yorkshire and Oxfordshire. 
  • Recorded School Games Summit workshop highlighting the landscape of exclusions and the role School Games can play in promoting positive outcomes for young people. 
  • 2 audio podcasts with Sarah Dove, Strategic Director for Phoenix Education and President of PRUsAP (Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision Association.) Listen here: Part 1 & Part 2
  • A set of illustrated resources designed by young people in Alternative Provision that aim to share their feelings/experiences in PE and school sport and spark conversation to introduce solutions to these.
  • 5 Development Coaches specialising in providing support in this area. 

As well as the above, Development Coaches within the School Games network have identified five quick wins to support SGOs in engaging with their Alternative Provision schools. You can view them in the attached document. 

AP illustrations

An example of two of the illustrated resources designed by a young person in an AP setting.

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