Independent sector organisations are to pilot a series of “radical” alternative education projects for children with behavioural problems, supported by £26.5m of government funding.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls told the National Children and Adult Services Conference that the 12 projects, run by organisations such as Barnardo’s and Kids Company, were designed to transform provision for some of the 70,000 pupils in alternative settings in England, as well as engaging with children at risk of exclusion.
The innovative models feature themes ranging from army cadet training to a city farm, but share a common focus on early intervention, a central theme of the Children’s Plan.
Addressing the conference in Liverpool, he said: “It’s terrible and tragic that 70% of all young people in alternative provision have a special educational need, but if we had identified the problems in primary school, we could have done a better job for those young people.”
Balls emphasised the important role of schools in promoting children’s well-being, and urged schools and youth offending teams to work more closely together.
Outlining priorities for the coming year, he said that family support services, and stronger partnerships between local authorities and children and adolescent mental health services, would be crucial in implementing the Children’s Plan.
The children’s secretary also confirmed that personal, social and health education would become a compulsory part of the school curriculum in England.
The alternative education pilots follow an announcement by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in May, outlining new powers to close down poorly-performing pupil referral units.