Much has been said of late about the role of alternative provision and PRUs – in the context of knife crime, off-rolling and exclusion. Deborah Lawson looks at the real picture...

Last year, the Education Select Committee published Forgotten children: Alternative provision and the scandal of ever-increasing exclusions. Since then, pupil referral units (PRUs) and other alternative provision (AP) have not been far from the headlines, most recently with the Timpson Review of School Exclusion (DfE, 2019).

Schools have been accused of “off-rolling” and dumping “inconvenient” children with behaviour problems into AP. A notably high proportion of pupils move in the middle of exam studies, but only around half reappear on another centre’s register.

There are many genuine reasons why children attend AP: medical needs (including mental health), pregnancy, SEND, exclusion, non-attendance, criminal convictions, arriving from another area without a school place, to be engaged in vocational training...

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