James Madine puts the case for greater scrutiny for schools providing alternative provision.
Progress Schools is part of Progress Education, a national organisation with 12 independent secondary schools in operation.
The young people we support have been excluded from mainstream school and have special academic, emotional, behavioural and social needs. Our pupils are some of the most deprived children in the UK and require a different approach to mainstream education.
We want all young people to have the same educational opportunities that we provide, and believe a major step forward would be for Government to ensure all schools in the sector are registered.
In recent years, there’s been a huge rise in the number of unregistered independent schools. In 2019, an Ofsted report identified around 6,000 children who were attending an unregulated provision that year.
Typically, the children who attend an unregulated school are some of the most vulnerable in society, and unregistered providers can put them at greater risk by denying them an appropriate education.
Unregulated providers aren’t subject to an inspection of safeguarding or quality of education, so it’s impossible for authorities to understand what measures are in place to support pupils. Therefore, we are calling on the Government to make it a legal requirement for institutions to be registered and subjected to an Ofsted inspection when teaching children more than eight hours per week.
This way, the quality of the education can be assessed, and our most vulnerable children be protected. The law requires that children in mainstream education be provided with full-time education or training of 25 hours a week. However, this is not the case for organisations in the alternative provision sector.
Whilst some children initially benefit from shorter hours to help them re-engage in education, this is not good in the long-term and has implications for the safeguarding of pupils and for the quality of their education.
There is evidence to suggest many students in receipt of this provision type, have reduced hours for significant periods of time as opposed to short-term intervention.
Staying beneath the guidance threshold of 18 hours per week – which quantifies as a full-time placement – the provision provided to students is not registered and means that for many students, no school is taking statutory responsibility for the education and welfare of that child.
There needs to be a real tightening on the wording in the current legislation from the DfE.
We must all work as a collective to ensure that every pupil excluded from mainstream education receives the support they deserve.
James Madine is Managing Director at Progress Schools, one of the UK’s leading providers of alternative education and careers support for young people of secondary school age.