Reading the schools White Paper this morning, I was really encouraged to see recognition of the desire to deliver educational excellence everywhere. I was further heartened to see a specific section on the reform of alternative provision (AP).
For a sector that is often overlooked, that works hard to meet the needs of some of the most challenging learners in the education system, the proposed reforms will go some way towards ensuring an increased number of learners are able to achieve better outcomes and the progression to which they are entitled.
The schools White Paper recognises that some AP is already outstanding: TBAP AP academies are recognised as such and the reforms will facilitate more successful provisions like ours.
All too often, learners are abandoned by their mainstream school and are sent to low-quality, low-cost provision. By ensuring mainstream schools remain accountable, it means headteachers will look to commission some of the best provision and will remain invested in the success of the learner.
It is no accident that in our most successful AP academies, close links are maintained with local schools in terms of our local governing bodies and the sharing of teaching expertise and professional development through our teaching school alliances. There have been occasions when headteachers and other key staff have attended our Year 11 leavers' events to celebrate the achievements of their learners.
The best AP has a highly skilled workforce, one that truly understands the complex needs of these learners. It is very encouraging that the reforms recognise the importance of these staff and that a requirement will be placed upon headteachers to commission provision with this level of expertise. It will be exciting to see further sharing of staff between the two sectors.
Successful AP already has clear lines of accountability to Ofsted and local commissioners (including schools). However, all too often this is not the case and learners can be lost from the system. A reform of accountability is welcome and we need to replicate scenarios where this is working well, such as by commissioning groups of headteachers and, perhaps, local authority commissioners working on their behalf.
It is important that the status and professional judgement of AP headteachers is maintained and that they are held to account both by Ofsted and by their local governance, a multi-academy trust board for example. There are some fantastic MATs delivering outstanding AP and they should be encouraged to expand and provide support in areas where provision is poor.
Seamus Oates is executive headteacher and CEO of the Tri-Borough Alternative Provision (TBAP) multi-academy trust. You can find him on Twitter @headtbap
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