Press release

Academy freedoms for pupil referral units

Charlie Taylor: Academy freedoms for pupil referral units will help fix the flawed system that is failing vulnerable children.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government’s Behaviour Advisor Charlie Taylor has called on the best Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) to take advantage of academy freedoms, to drive up quality of education and develop closer relationships with schools in their area.

From today, excellent PRUs are now able to apply to become an academy, with the first opening from September this year. This means they will take full control of their budgets and staffing, allowing them to work in the best interest of their pupils. They will also be able to build better partnerships with other schools, diversify their provision, develop new areas of expertise, and help other PRUs to improve.

PRU and other Alternative Provision providers cater for vulnerable pupils who do not attend mainstream schools because of things like behaviour, exclusion, illness, teenage pregnancy, or because they do not have a school place. Figures published for the first time last year show that in 2009/10, only 1.4 per cent of pupils in alternative provision achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A*-C, or equivalent, including English and mathematics. This compares with 53.4 per cent in all schools in England.

PRUs have not been able to become Academies until now. However, the Government believes that they should have the same opportunities as other great schools.

Charlie Taylor said today:

We currently have a flawed system that fails to provide for some of the most vulnerable children in the country. If we fail to give them a first-class education then, as the events of this summer showed, we will all pay a heavy price.

It is no coincidence that with great leadership and with more independence, mainstream academies flourish and improve faster than the national average. Heads of the best PRUs tell me that they want the same freedoms to improve education for the most vulnerable children. There is no reason why they should be denied this.

Seamus Oates, head teacher at the Bridge Academy - an outstanding-rated Pupil Referral Unit - in West London, said:

We are enormously excited by the opportunities that academy conversion will offer good or outstanding PRUs. Whilst we have always received excellent support from Hammersmith and Fulham Local Authority we welcome the additional freedoms to manage our budgets, curriculum and offer in much the same way as established academies. I have no doubt that Alternative Provision Academies will deliver high quality outcomes for young people unable to manage in mainstream settings.

John D’Abbro, Head of the New Rush Hall Group of PRUs in Redbridge, said:

Converting to Academies will give outstanding PRUs the greater freedoms and the autonomy that our Mainstream and Special School colleagues have enjoyed for years. My hope is that these greater freedoms and pending legislation will allow PRUs to work even more effectively with schools and pupils.

Notes for editors

  1. Experimental statistics on Key Stage 4 (GCSE) achievements of pupils in alternative provision in 2009/10 are available from the publications section.

  2. Ofsted’s report on alternative provision can be found on their website.

  3. Charlie Taylor has been a behavioural specialist for over 10 years. He has taught every age group, coached teachers in behaviour management techniques, worked in tough inner city primary and comprehensive schools. He is currently on secondment at the Department for Education as the Government’s Expert Adviser on behaviour. He is head teacher of The Willow, a special school for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in West London. Within a year of joining, the school received an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report. He also worked as a freelance behaviour consultant holds regular workshops for parents. He lives in London and is married with three children.

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Published 27 February 2012