Schools may manage pupils with behavioural problems

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Education for expelled pupils is set to be overhauled, with the government preparing to hand schools the power to arrange alternative learning. Work is already under way on a pilot scheme set to start in September, which may lead to more schools managing pupils with severe behavioural problems.

The announcement follows an Ofsted report that warned that too much alternative provision is unmonitored.

Pupils in alternative education often spend part of their week away from school attending off-site provision. But there are currently "very limited safeguards" to assure the quality of such provision and no requirement for the majority of alternative providers to register with any official body.
 
Ofsted is considering how to evaluate alternative education placements for pupils as part of school inspections and wants providers to register with the Department for Education (DfE).

In July, the government will announce the first group of schools and local authorities to trial a system in which schools, rather than councils, hold the budgets for alternative education.

Eleanor Schooling, chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Services' standards, performance and inspection committee, said the pilots are designed to encourage schools to use more preventative work with young people at risk of exclusion.

She suggested that many councils will follow in the footsteps of Cambridgeshire, which has devolved funding for behaviour support and pupil referral units to five partnerships of schools. The partnerships can choose to buy placements at local pupil referral units (PRUs) or make other arrangements for young people. This system has led to a decrease in the number of young people being educated in PRUs.
 
She said: "There are a lot of myths about schools not being keen on working with certain pupils. That is not actually the case. One of the big issues is making sure everyone knows transparently who these young people are, who is at risk and how all the players in the system are working together."

Steve Turner, programme director of UK Youth's Youth Achievement Foundations, an alternative education scheme, insisted that schools need to be willing to fund the cost of provision for young people with complex needs if the rethink of alternative education is to succeed.
 
He said: "There's a lot of variance in interpretation of government policy at the moment. Schools are negotiating with existing alternative education providers and not necessarily matching the funding that was available previously. Some schools are trying to secure alternative provision for the same price as mainstream education, although a school place costs about £4,000 each year, and the average cost of a pupil referral unit place is about £15,000 annually."

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