Big questions over the quality of alternative provision


15th November 2019

New analysis by The Centre for Education and Youth reveals that previous research may have underestimated the proportion of our most vulnerable and challenging pupils educated in grade 3 or 4 settings.

Until now, figures have generally referred to the proportion of institutions judged good or outstanding.

proportion of state funded pupil referral units and alternative provision academies and free schools judges good and outstanding

Figure four from State-funded schools inspections and outcomes as at 31 August 2018

However, our analysis shows that in fact, nearly a quarter of pupils in AP/PRUs are taught in grade 3 or 4 settings.

The reason for this underestimate is that good or outstanding providers tend to be extremely small.

  • Nearly half of outstanding providers in 2018 had fewer than ten pupils.
  • Providers judged to ‘Require Improvement’ had an average of 79 pupils. This is more than 3 times as many as the average outstanding provider.

The reasons for these surprising figures are far from clear.

  • Either the gradings are an accurate reflection of quality- in which case there are grave questions as to the appropriateness of large providers;
  • or, Ofsted ratings for AP/PRUs do not account appropriately for different types of providers.

Neither of these situations would be acceptable.

We simply cannot afford to allow a quarter of our most vulnerable and challenging pupils to be taught in poor quality provision, and schools need to have accurate information about Alternative Providers if they are to commission the best quality support when pupils need to go outside of the mainstream.

We have made a number of other recommendations regarding urgently needed improvements to the quality of support for pupils at risk of exclusion.  We are now calling on all three parties to include these in their election manifestos.