Revamp of pupil referral units to herald exclusion league tables

The government is introducing league tables for pupil referral units in a bid to reduce the number of excluded young people.

In a major overhaul of the system for dealing with excluded pupils, 10 alternative schemes will replace the worst-performing PRUs on a pilot basis. The use of voluntary and private sector providers will also be increased as part of the £26.5m strategy.

The emphasis is on early intervention, to drive down the number of young people permanently excluded from mainstream education. There are currently 70,000 pupils in alternative settings in England.

Announcing the major overhaul, schools secretary Ed Balls said finding early solutions to children’s behavioural problems would prevent many from ending up in crime or unemployment.

“We must help schools address poor behaviour earlier,” he said.

“We can then help them to access the right support before their behaviour spirals out of control and reaches the point of exclusion, so that young people causing problems can get back on track.”

Balls said the record of only 1% of pupils achieving five good GCSEs in alternative settings was “simply unacceptable”, and spelled out a stark message to failing pupil referral units.

“Many alternative settings offer an excellent standard of education but there is a significant minority that are simply not up to scratch. We want these to improve or close.”
Under the plans laid out in the White Paper on school exclusion, guidance will be issued on suitable accommodation and facilities for referral units to help them meet the needs of young people, and order all PRUs to set up management committees.

Alternatives to PRUs could include schools, school partnerships, or external providers from the private and voluntary sectors running units jointly with or on behalf of local authorities.

Referral units assess the needs of young people and commission services from agencies such as children’s services authorities and youth offending teams accordingly.

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