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Why has there been a sudden increase in students who are requiring AP?

With the start of a new academic year, we have seen a noticeable increase in students requiring alternative provision. The reasons why students cannot attend mainstream school are vast, from exclusion to physical, social, emotional or mental health issues. The fact remains that every student has the right to access education across primary and secondary school years in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 28).

Whilst all schools will strive to support students to identify the reasons behind disengagement from school settings, simple solutions are rarely found. Often, schools and local authorities will look to secure alternative provision via a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

This blog looks at the current issues around PRU waitlists, which leave hundreds of children without access to education. We will also discuss how Tute has been supporting both schools and PRUs with their innovative online tuition service to help break through these current barriers to learning.

Why are waitlists for Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) so long currently?

Waitlists for Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) can be long for several reasons and vary across local councils based on demand. These demands often exceed the available capacity within councils, resulting in long waitlists.

Rising Exclusion Rates:

Across the United Kingdom, permanent exclusions have surged since the pandemic ended. According to official statistics from GOV.UKthere were nearly 6500 permanent exclusions across the UK in the 2021/22 academic year, a sharp rise of 66% versus the previous year. This is the equivalent of 8 permanent exclusions for every 10,000 pupils. This alarming trend suggests that more students are facing the prospect of being excluded from traditional school environments.

Exclusion from mainstream education is a complex issue with profound consequences for young people. For excluded children, it often marks a critical turning point in their educational journey into adulthood.

Recent investigations by SchoolsWeek have shed light on this pressing concern:

“Excluded children in a third of areas are stuck on waiting lists for specialist provision, as exclusions appear to be rising faster than councils can keep up with.”

As permanent exclusions rise across the country, Pupil Referral Units and alternative provisions cope with an increasing influx of students. Over a third of councils reported having waiting lists for PRU places this summer, with 27 councils reporting a total of 553 children on waiting lists. However, without a thorough investigation by the Department for Education, the actual number of children on waitlists could be much higher.

Limited Resources:

Pupil Referral Units often need more resources, including staff and facilities, to help with alternative provisions, such as physical classroom space or computer equipment. These units may have a limited number of spaces available, and the allocation of these spaces is based on factors such as urgency, severity of needs, and available resources.

For example, the North East of England has the highest regional exclusion rates across the academic year 2021/22 at 0.13% of all students. As a result, there will be additional pressure on PRUs and schools within this area to support those students.

What are the knock-on effects for students on waitlists who don't get access to education?

Students on waitlists for PRUs for prolonged periods can experience several knock-on effects, impacting across the age range across primary and secondary school education. Here are some potential consequences of a lack of education access for young people.

Delayed Education:

The most apparent impact is the delay in receiving an education. Access to an appropriate educational setting is necessary for students to take advantage of crucial learning opportunities and remain in line with age related expectations for their peers academically. This delay will also create uncertainty and disruption to a student’s daily routine around school, causing long-term implications for their educational progress and prospects.

Michaela Davies, a mother of two sons aged 6 and 8, both with special educational needs, experienced a distressing situation. Both of her sons were permanently excluded from their respective schools in Warwickshire on the same day, just two weeks before the end of the last term.

She claims to have been offered no provision of any sort for either of them.

“They’re just sat at home with no education. Where is the support for these children with disabilities?”

As you can see from the chart, this is not an isolated incident in fact the vast majority of students are receiving less than FT education.

Social and Emotional Consequences:

Students who cannot access education may experience social isolation and lack peer interaction, leading to feelings of loneliness, reduced self-esteem, and increased vulnerability to mental health issues. Being in an educational setting provides opportunities for students to develop a wide range of skills, including academic, social, and emotional competencies.

Long waiting lists and delayed access to education can exacerbate social and emotional issues for students. Many students are already avoiding school due to anxiety, and further delays in accessing education only heighten this anxiety. This situation not only worsens the existing problem but also runs the risk of students being unable to return to school due to the increased anxiety caused by these delays.

According to councils in England, increased anxiety and lack of mental health support are contributing to a significant rise in children missing school, with some “struggling to leave home”.

In its evidence to the committee, Essex council stated: “Anxiety and mental health concerns are one of the most significant drivers behind our recent increase in persistent/severe absence from school. We have noted a significant growth in the cohort of children and families who struggle to leave their home. Some of these families were experiencing anxiety prior to the pandemic, but many of the current mental health and anxiety presentations appear to have developed during the pandemic/lockdown periods.”

Increased Risk of Negative Behaviours:

The lack of structured education and support can increase the risk of students engaging in negative behaviours. Without appropriate guidance and supervision from teachers and support workers, they may be more susceptible to getting involved in risky activities or falling into unhealthy habits.

How can online tuition services help with a solution to educational access?

Now we have discussed why there has been a rise in the need for alternative provisions and the knock-on effects of long waitlists; it’s clear that a quick and accessible solution is needed to improve students’ access to education across the UK.

For many, online tuition has been the answer to providing timely and high-quality education for these students in response to the growing challenge around PRU waitlists and rising exclusion rates.

Tute has been one of those providers offering live online lessons that can be accessed anywhere, giving students an online classroom environment with a real-life teacher. Our online learning structure is closely linked to current curriculums in an interactive and fun environment. Tute’s Virtual School specifically supports education partners nationwide with their pressing need for provision available within and urgent time frame.

The great thing about online tuition is it can work around you and your students’ needs. Whether they join the online lessons from home or even from within their mainstream setting, like the ERA award winning model pioneered by Thorpe St Andrews in Norfolk who set up a specific Safe Space within their school for AP students. This gave students the flexibility to still attend school but work in a quiet classroom. It served as a valuable tool for helping students bridge the gap and successfully reintegrate into their mainstream setting.

Tute can help you if you're:

  • A school in need of alternative provision
  • A non-mainstream setting that needs a quick and reliable approach to increase capacity.
  • A local authority in need of a swift solution for students out of education

We are working closely with a range of schools and Pupil Referral Units to help close the gap between providing alternative provisions and the increased demand. Tute is an online tuition provider that offers a variety of tuition programmes for various needs, from the short and long-term alternative provisions, the National Tutoring programme, ESOL and more!

Get in touch today, and let us help meet your alternative provision needs.