Department for Education
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Radical new approach to tackling poor behaviour and teaching excluded pupils

Radical new approach to tackling poor behaviour and teaching excluded pupils

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2008/0095) issued by The Government News Network on 20 May 2008

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls has today announced plans for a major overhaul of how some of society's most troubled and challenging young people are educated and how we can tackle poor behaviour at a much earlier stage.

Ministers are determined to ensure that excluded youngsters do not end up in crime or unemployment. Around two thirds have a special educational need and today's White Paper will ensure they receive the support they need to turn around their behaviour and get their learning back on track.

The new plans, backed with £26.5m, will see a radical transformation of alternative provision as it currently exists. Ministers will pilot new types of schools and programmes for young people who are educated outside the mainstream. Plans include: closing the poorest performing Pupil Referral Units (PRUs); encouraging more use of innovative private and voluntary sector providers; publishing performance data for both alternative education providers and for local authorities for the first time; and a new emphasis on early intervention to prevent the need for exclusion.

Ed Balls said:

"Whilst behaviour is good in most schools, for most of the time, it is still a key concern that parents raise with me. That is why we are doing more to improve behaviour across the board.

"Of course Heads must exclude pupils where their behaviour has overstepped the mark in a serious way, and young people and their parents must face up to the consequences of their actions, but we must also do more to help schools address poor behaviour earlier. We can then help them to access the right support before the behaviour spirals out of control and reaches the point of exclusion, so that young people causing problems can get back on track.

"This will be better for the individual, better for schools and better for society as a whole. The £15,000 a year spent on educating an excluded child can be better spent on avoiding the need to exclude in the first place. Currently only 1% of pupils educated in alternative settings will get five good GCSEs. This is simply unacceptable.

"Many excluded pupils go on to be unemployed or on the wrong side of the law. If we are to tackle crime then these are the young people for whom we must provide a better quality of education.

"Many alternative settings offer an excellent standard of education but there is a significant minority that are simply not up to scratch. We want these to improve or close. We want local authorities to hold competitions for running settings and encourage more organisations to come forward with the best and most innovative ideas. This could include using more private or voluntary sector providers or using studio schools as a preventative measure where young people at risk of exclusion work in a business based environment. No ideas will be refused consideration."

"What matters is that we have high-quality alternatives to schools with a focus on attainment and good behaviour which will enable pupils to adjust back into mainstream education wherever possible."

Kevin Brennan, Minister for Children, said:

"It is not just excluded pupils who are in alternative settings. This White Paper is also about how we educate young mothers, pregnant girls, pupils with serious and ongoing illnesses and those with extreme phobias and fears.

"Alternative provision has for a long time not had the same status or recognition as mainstream education. We are determined that this must change and that alternative settings keep pace by sharing in the multi-million pound rebuilding programmes, having staff with better training and equal recognition as those in mainstream settings, and by ensuring that the outcomes of young people they teach are properly monitored and reported.

"However, schools cannot do this alone. Our strategy for improving alternative provision goes hand-in-hand with our emphasis on personal and parental responsibility. The primary responsibility for good behaviour sits with young people themselves, and with parents and families. The best alternative provision can support their motivation and commitment, but it is not a substitute. This is why we are determined to work with young people and their families to take our strategy forward."

Sir Alan Steer said:

"I am impressed by the vision and focus of the White Paper. It is inspirational and when implemented will do much to address the issues in this sector."

Martina Milburn, Chief Exec of the Prince's Trust, said:

"The Prince's Trust works with many young people who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion from school. We warmly welcome this White Paper, which should make a real difference to many vulnerable young people, their families and communities. We believe that the third sector can make a big contribution to educational provision for young people who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion from school, so we are very excited about the new pilots and hope the Prince's Trust will be involved."

New measures include:

* opening ten new pilots including one that will take over from a failing Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and a possible studio school that will offer a business-based education and will act as a preventative measure before behaviour deteriorates;
* shutting down failing and poorly performing PRUs, with more powers for ministers to intervene where there is underperformance;
* breaking down barriers to new ideas and innovative alternative provision by ensuring LAs hold a competition for replacement settings and invite tenders from voluntary and private providers;
* publishing performance data for pupils in alternative settings and asking OFSTED to take account of any PRUs in special measures in an LA in its comprehensive area assessments;
* a requirement for LAs to ensure every pupil in alternative provision has objectives for educational outcomes, a minimum curriculum entitlement and a plan to be reintegrated into mainstream education wherever possible;
* ensuring that PRUs are not overlooked when it comes to capital funding; and
* remitting the School Teachers Review Body to look at pay and conditions for staff in alternative settings to ensure better training and equal esteem with staff in mainstream settings.

This comes after ministers asked Sir Alan Steer, a behaviour expert and Head, to review progress since his 2005 report on behaviour and discipline in schools. He will look at behaviour partnerships which will be key in ensuring that alternative provision is effective and ensure that young people are not simply excluded and forgotten about. Schools work together to tackle poor behaviour and to reintroduce those who are ready to mainstream education.

The White Paper today follows a range of improvements to powers and tools for dealing with poor behaviour which include:

* reasserting the right to use force to remove pupils from a classroom;
* giving teachers the legal right to search pupils they suspect of carrying a knife;
* allowing teachers to use screening methods such as arches and wands;
* giving teachers a legal power to discipline meaning that they can give detentions, confiscate items and punish pupils even if the parents do not support the action; and
* raising the bar on behaviour so that passing OFSTED inspections will require a higher level of discipline from pupils with structured action from staff to tackle poor behaviour.

Specifically on PRUs the Government has:

* issued guidance on suitable accommodation for PRUs to help them better meet the needs of young people in effective facilities; and
* made it a requirement for PRUs to have Management committees established in accordance with regulations and guidance so that key stakeholders groups can serve on them.

To improve the quality in alternative provision, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will also gather together a good practice guide that will be issued in the summer term. Innovative alternatives to current provision could include:

* single schools, including special schools and academies, running PRUs jointly with or on behalf of local authorities;
* school partnerships running PRUs jointly with or on behalf of local authorities;
* PRUs sharing sites and resources of local schools and managed by local schools;
* external providers of alternative provision (private and voluntary sector) running PRUs jointly with or on behalf of local authorities;
* special schools catering for pupils who would normally attend PRUs or other types of alternative provision, and providing outreach service to local schools; and
* e-learning and "virtual" provision, particularly for pupils who cannot attend school due to emotional or physical health needs.


1. Alternative provision is any type of education outside of the mainstream school sector. Pupil Referral Units are one type of alternative provision and are defined as Local Authority run schools for excluded pupils. One third of pupils in alternative provision are in PRUs and two thirds are in other alternative settings such as hospital schools or charity run settings.

2. There are currently 70,000 pupils in alternative settings at any one time of which 75% have a special educational need. There are up to 135,000 young people spending some time in an alternative setting in the course of a year.

3. Around half of pupils in alternative settings are either excluded from schools or are at risk of exclusion. 60% are boys and 91% are between the ages of 11 and 15. There are currently 450 PRUs in England catering for 25,000 pupils.

4. The consultation will end on 25 July. The White Paper can be found at: It contains case studies of the kind of provision we want to see more of.

5. Exclusions are very rarely overturned; only around 1.5% of permanent exclusions are over turned with the child returning to the school.

6. In February 2007 we issued practical guidance on accommodation and design for PRUs, with case studies of good practice. This can be found at

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