8 Mar 2012

Report highly critical of care for excluded pupils

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

Disruptive children should be identified before they start school to stop them going “off the rails” later, the government’s behaviour tsar says in a new report ordered following last summer’s riots.

Charlie Taylor suggested that intervening to help naughty children when they are as young as two or three is better than “waiting until they are throwing tables around” when they are teenagers.

The review was ordered by ministers in the wake of last summer’s riots, amid concerns that many of the children involved in the disturbance had special educational needs, were more likely to miss school and be excluded and to live in the poorest areas.

Mr Taylor, who is head of The Willows, a special school in west London, for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties published his review into alternative provision – centres or services for youngsters that have been taken out of mainstream schooling.

In his report, Mr Taylor calls for secondary schools, pupil referral units (PRUs) and other alternative settings to work with primary schools to stop behaviour problems from escalating.

Spotting the early warning signs in young children could make all the difference to their education and lives in the long run. Brian Lightman ASCL

But he also backed earlier findings from Ofsted which criticised a lack of oversight of PRUs and alternative educational provision (AP) for excluded pupils.

“Schools often do not send children to AP that is suitable for them, have not quality assured the provision and have not agreed targets for success or put systems in place for monitoring progress.

“Providers have described schools sending them children and taking no interest in the pupil’s progress or the success of the placement.

No academic expectations

The report backed up other previous findings which said that when children had started in AP, a third of providers surveyed were visited by the school less often than once every 6 months and only a sixth were visited every week.

He also said often there were no academic expectations placed on children meaning more able pupils did not reach their full potential.

The report said: “Despite the many complex difficulties of children in AP it is still concerning that only 1.4 per cent of them achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths compared to 53.4 per cent of their peers in all schools, as outlined in the Department for Education‘s GCSE and Equivalent Results first statistical release in June 2011.

“One head described taking over a PRU that was being run like a holiday camp. The object seemed to be keeping children happy and there was no academic challenge.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said they welcomed the idea of early intervention.
“Prevention is more effective than a cure. Spotting the early warning signs in young children and helping them manage their behaviour could make all the difference to their education and lives in the long run.”