A school where ‘nobody’s judging you’ 

Oct 17, 2017 by

At the biggest pupil referral unit in the country all children are welcome: the bullied, the excluded, the sick – and those who just turn up unannounced

In a modest brick building in a residential street in Blackpool, a girl wearing over-the-knee white socks and patent leather T-bar shoes is reflecting on what went wrong at secondary school. Marie is 13 and loved English; she was studying Romeo and Juliet and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but found it hard to control her behaviour in class. Eventually she was told to leave and currently is at a pupil referral unit (PRU), preparing to move to a new school to start over again.

She doesn’t blame anyone but herself. “I did mess about in lessons. They gave me so many chances,” she says. The staff at the unit are trying to encourage her to reflect on what happened, how it affected her and others, and how best to deal with the challenges ahead.

Her biggest issue, she says, is that she gets angry. She lists what she needs – time out, calm, rewards to encourage her, more sleep and praise from her teachers. Finally she says: “Maybe if I lived with my dad I’d be happier.”

Marie is one of 220 young people receiving their education – and much more – in the biggest PRU in the country. Called Educational Diversity (ED), it is split between five sites across the Lancashire coastal town and caters for pupils unable to attend mainstream school owing to social, emotional, behavioural or medical needs, from primary up to GCSE. Eighty of them have been permanently excluded; others are “dual-registered” while ED does intervention work.

A report last week by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that permanent exclusions in England have gone up by 40% in the last three years. There were 6,685 last year, but the report said this was “just the tip of the iceberg”, as children are increasingly being removed informally from schools so don’t feature in official statistics.

In reality, 48,000 children were educated outside mainstream last year in what is known as alternative provision (AP). A lot of AP – including Educational Diversity – is excellent, but concerns remain about outcomes for those who fall out of mainstream schooling. Only 1% of excluded children get the five good GCSEs needed to access post-16 training and apprenticeships.

Source: A school where ‘nobody’s judging you’ | Education | The Guardian

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