Northern school leaders to be placed in PRUs

Programme aims to promote inclusion by showing mainstream school staff how pupil referral units support young people

The Difference project aims to place Northern school leaders in pupil referral units

School leaders in the North of England are being urged to go on placements at pupil referral units as part of a programme aimed at reducing exclusions.

The Difference – which sends middle and early senior leaders into PRUs for two years –  is launching a new wave of placements in the North amid concerns about the number of permanent and fixed-term exclusions in the region.

Successful candidates spend two years at their PRU and are then given support by the programme, which helps to place them into more senior leadership roles back in mainstream schools.

Former teacher Kiran Gill, who set up the programme, said it could help teachers in mainstream schools who are looking for strategies to improve pupils’ behaviour and safety.


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Ms Gill said: “The programme is about creating tomorrow's headteachers.  It can take a lot of skill, expertise and moral support to swim against the tide as a school leader. 

“But I believe that the teachers who come on to the Difference Leaders progamme can forge those skills in the fiery front line of alternative provision. 

"They'll return to mainstream with a burning commitment to make their schools more inclusive, as well as the networks and the knowhow. 

"We help them return to mainstream in senior leadership positions, to lead inclusion [across the] whole school. 

"We've got some of the biggest multi-academy trusts in the country saying they want these upskilled senior leaders, do be able to do things differently when it comes to exclusions and vulnerable learners. 

"This programme builds a high-status career route for people to specialise in  leadership with the most vulnerable."

Ms Gill told Tes the North had been chosen because of the number of exclusions in the region.

“Yorkshire and Humber has some of the highest levels of fixed-term exclusion nationally; and we know challenges with county lines are becoming ever more concerning in Northern towns. 

“Teachers can struggle to know where to turn for good practice when the strategies they're using again and again don't actually change pupils' behaviour, safety and outcomes.”

The Difference wants to address this by building up knowledge of what works inside PRUs and sharing it across staff in mainstream schools.

Ms Gill set up the Difference in 2017. She is a former teacher and also worked for the Social Mobility Commission.

The first set of placements through the programme began this year in alternative provision schools in London and the South East.

The Difference started with 10 placements and had more than 100 applications for them. Next year it will offer 20 placements – 10 in London and 10 in the North West and Yorkshire.

These new, two-year placements in the North will be launched at an IncludEd conference being held in Sheffield on 9 November, for which Tes is a media partner.

The programme includes a two-week summer training session before participants begin their new roles, six away days during the year and a programme of 20 “practice-based assignments”. These projects are aimed at developing leadership and supporting pupil learning, safeguarding and wellbeing.

'Blueprint' for change

Ms Gill said: “This isn't an easy job: not anyone can do it.  But the fantastic people already achieving incredible things with excluded learners set a blueprint for us. 

“They are teachers in touch with why they came into the profession in the first place: to build life-changing relationships with the children who need them most.  And they're also bloody good practitioners. 

“They think deeply about pedagogy; they are creative in their curriculum design; and they're tenacious against the odds: they just won't accept second best for their learners.”

She said she hoped the programme would allow people who took part in the placements to become better school leaders and share what they had learned in a mainstream setting.

“The programme is about creating tomorrow's headteachers.  It can take a lot of skill, expertise and moral support to swim against the tide as a school leader. 

“But I believe that the teachers who come onto the Difference Leaders progamme can forge those skills in the fiery frontline of alternative provision. 

"They'll return to mainstream with a burning commitment to make their schools more inclusive, as well as the networks and the knowhow. 

“At the IncludEd conference, we're bringing together leaders who have done just that; as well as mainstream MATs and heads who want to do things differently and hire our leaders after the two years.”

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