Excluded pupils are being "preyed upon", Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools has warned.
Amanda Spielman was speaking ahead of the publication of the Ofsted annual report on Tuesday when she said that ensuring pupils were in the classroom was "so important" for their safety.
Ofsted analysis is reported to show that the persistent absence rate in pupil referral units (PRUs) is almost four times higher than in mainstream schools. And Ms Spielman said that keeping these pupils "engaged" was essential.
Spielman: Heads must not lose the right to exclude
She told the Observer: “Exclusion does not have to leave a young life on the scrapheap.
“Children who are permanently excluded deserve a good deal elsewhere that will help them overcome their challenges and give them a shot at a successful future. High-quality AP [alternative provison] and PRUs can and do turn young lives around.
“But they cannot do what they do best if children aren’t in class. It is a sad fact that these children are often preyed upon. Getting children engaged and into the classroom is so important – for their safety and to help them make the right life choices.”
But Ms Spielman is also reported to have said that the reality of referral units and APs was often very different from the common perception that the institutions were steering children towards gangs and exploitation. She said more than 80 per cent of registered state-funded providers were rated as "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted.
The report is also expected to highlight how vulnerable pupils have been “cut adrift” during lockdown.