He's destined for a referral unit, but ministers say that shouldn't harm his chances

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
New guidance calls for PRU children to get the same schooling as their peers in mainstream education

Pupil referral units have been ordered to ensure that children excluded from school have a full-time education and the same chances to study for all qualifications.

The move comes as part of the Government's drive to reform the way those banned from the classroom are treated.

Changes, set to come into force in 2011, end the "limited" regulations covering pupil referral units (PRUs), which have led to children waiting long periods for a placement and then only receiving a few hours of education a week.

Pupils will have to be in lessons for the same length of time as their colleagues in mainstream schools, and PE, dance, drama, music, and art will also have to be on the timetable for those in "alternative provision".

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has said in new guidance that this broader curriculum will help children deal with emotional problems, and help teachers to "engage" with them in "radically new ways".

The DCSF has also demanded that more pupils take part in work experience during their time in PRUs. Pilot schemes have shown this helps to keep them learning.

Efforts to improve behaviour rather than teach English and maths have led to children falling behind when they get back into school, according to DCSF officials. All pupils, even those excluded, have the right to take GCSEs or diplomas, but not all are being given the chance.

PRUs will be renamed "short stay schools" from this September in an effort to emphasise their temporary purpose and prevent children from remaining in them for too long.

Despite this, the new DCSF guidance says the timetable for children not in school - which also includes those away for medical reasons - must be as full as possible.

"Alternative provision needs to be focused on achieving the best outcomes possible for children and to do this, they must be given the opportunity to experience a good quality education, comparable to that received by pupils in mainstream schools."

Every PRU pupil will now have to have an "information passport" so teachers can easily share information. They will also have to have a "personal learning plan".

Sue Bradley, headteacher of the Kingsmead School PRU in Derby and regional president of the National Organisation for Short Stay Schools, said she and other members supported the new proposals.

"It seems the Government has taken on board many of our proposals and now we need to see how they will work in practice," she said.

"Nobody has yet really come up with a definitive answer to the question of what a PRU is and who they serve. We cater for a whole spectrum of young people, so it's important we keep flexibility in the system."

Government behaviour "tsar" Alan Steer, who has criticised variations in the quality of pupil referral units, has also welcomed the changes.

"Some children in pupil referral units are being educated for very few hours a week and that's not satisfactory," he said.


The DCSF calls for the new curriculum to include:

- Functional elements of English, functional elements of maths, scientific literacy, ICT

- Personal and social development - especially to promote emotional skills - empathy, self-awareness, managing strong emotions, managing friendships

- The curriculum should be "aspirational"

- Those studying for GCSEs in PRUs and other forms of alternative provision should also have access to careers education

- Minimum teaching time for those with medical problems should be five hours a week. For Year 11 pupils it should be 25 hours; for those over 11, 24 hours; 23.5 hours for eight-to-11 year olds; and 21 hours for key stage 1 pupils.

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