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Alternative provision: findings and recommendations from Ofsted’s three-year survey

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This presentation complements ' Alternative provision: the findings from Ofsted’s three-year survey of schools’ use of off-site alternative provision'.

It includes discussion activities for schools, local authorities/partnerships/academy chains and providers.

Read the report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alternative-school-provision-findings-of-a-three-year-survey


Published in: Education
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Alternative provision: findings and recommendations from Ofsted’s three-year survey

  1. 1. Alternative provision The findings and recommendations from Ofsted’s three-year survey with discussion activities for schools, local authorities/partnerships/academy chains and providers
  2. 2. Alternative provision 2016 | 2 Context for this slide pack This slidepack gives the overview of the survey, with the key findings and the recommendations. Each section after that includes extracts from the information given in the report and suggests discussion points for schools, local authorities/partnerships/academy chains and providers. It can therefore be adapted for different audiences as required.
  3. 3. Background and methodology
  4. 4. Alternative provision 2016 | 4 Background  In 2011 Ofsted published a survey about schools’ use of off-site alternative provision (AP).  Many of the findings were not positive. At that time, despite some pupils’ evident enjoyment of their placements, and some very good work by some schools and providers, there were too many weaknesses in the use and quality of provision.  Too many pupils were in unsuitable placements, were not paid enough attention by their schools and were not achieving as well as they should.
  5. 5. Alternative provision 2016 | 5 Background  The DfE then commissioned the Taylor review of alternative provision. Findings were similar, citing many weaknesses in alternative provision.  In response, the DfE commissioned Ofsted to carry out another survey of alternative provision, this time taking place over thre  The survey was intended to find out whether the picture was improving.  A report on the interim findings was published in July 2014 .
  6. 6. Alternative provision 2016 | 6 Methodology  Inspectors visited 165 schools and 448 of the providers those schools used.  All the schools had been judged to be requires improvement, good or outstanding at their previous inspection.  Inspectors usually visited two to four providers that each school used.  Providers were selected in conjunction with the school, concentrating on unregistered providers (rather than pupil referral units (PRUs) or colleges).
  7. 7. Schools’ use of alternative provision
  8. 8. Alternative provision 2016 | 8 Numbers involved  Across the 165 schools, a total of 3,849 pupils in Years 9 to 11 were attending AP away from the site of their school for at least part of each week – 4% of the total number on the schools’ rolls.  10% were identified as disabled or with special educational needs.  35 pupils – less than 1% – were looked after.
  9. 9. Alternative provision 2016 | 9 Numbers by year group
  10. 10. Alternative provision 2016 | 10 Cost of alternative provision  Schools visited had spent on average around £54,000 on AP during the year prior to the survey inspection, with amounts ranging from £1,000 to £280,000 depending on the number of pupils involved.  The average amount spent by the six PRUs was significantly larger than other schools at around £450,000, with amounts ranging from £46,000 for 57 pupils to almost £1.8 million for provision for 148 pupils.
  11. 11. Main findings
  12. 12. Alternative provision 2016 | 12 Main findings  More schools appear to be refusing to use provision they do not think is of a good enough standard. Where good quality provision was not available, some of the schools were developing in- house alternatives.  Some schools are still not taking enough responsibility for ensuring the suitability of the placements they set up. A few of the schools in the survey placed pupils at an off-site provider without having visited first to check its safety and suitability.  Schools generally paid careful attention to the checks providers had carried out on their staff. However there is no specific reference to off-site AP in the government’s latest guidance on safeguarding. This situation sometimes leaves schools uncertain about what is required and what would be considered to be good practice with regard to checks on alternative providers.
  13. 13. Alternative provision 2016 | 13 Main findings  Alternative providers are often not well enough informed about aspects such as child protection, the use of social media and e-safety. Providers frequently encountered serious safeguarding concerns which they had to refer to schools. However, only a quarter had received any written information about child protection from schools.  Very few providers had received any guidance about e-safety, the safe use of social media or social networking. The majority had not attended any formal child protection training.  A small number of providers go against regulations about registration. They are taking more than five pupils on a full-time basis when they should not be doing so. Schools do not always check providers’ registration status properly or at all, and still send pupils to the provision.
  14. 14. Alternative provision 2016 | 14 Main findings All schools visited had appropriate procedures to check that pupils had arrived at the placement when they should and to follow up any non-attendance. A greater proportion of schools than in 2011 are now working in partnership with each other to find and commission AP. At its best, this practice leads to a rigorous process for assuring the quality of the provision and rejecting anything that is not up to standard.
  15. 15. Alternative provision 2016 | 15 Main findings  Some pupils still miss out on English and mathematics teaching at school on the days when they attend their AP, although this picture is better than in 2011. There were substantial gaps in some pupils’ timetables in almost one in 10 of the schools visited, either with insufficient provision for English and mathematics, or timetables that were too narrowly focused on a very few activities across each week. When pupils do miss key subjects, they often find it very difficult to catch up.  In a quarter of the schools, the curriculum for pupils who attended AP on a part-time basis was too narrow. While this is an improving picture since 2011, it means that these pupils do not have the opportunities they require to prepare them for their next steps in education or training. More positively, the vast majority of pupils who attend AP are taking English and mathematics qualifications, usually at an appropriate level.
  16. 16. Alternative provision 2016 | 16 Main findings  Pupils who attend AP full-time still sometimes study a very narrow range of subjects and the English and mathematics qualifications they are enabled to take are only at a very low level.  Occasionally, pupils who whose AP placements were theoretically ‘full time’ were not actually receiving a full-time education.  Too many schools lacked clarity about what constituted ‘good progress’ for their pupils who attended AP. In some cases, individualised target setting led to a low level of challenge and low expectations of performance that were out of line with national expectations.
  17. 17. Alternative provision 2016 | 17 Main findings  It remains the case that too few schools evaluate properly the quality of teaching that their pupils are receiving at the AP. This hampers their ability to evaluate the quality of the provision effectively. Less than a third of the schools visited carried out any systematic evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning at the placements they were using, either individually or in conjunction with the local authority or partnership.  Schools now generally share good quality and valuable information about individual pupils with the providers. This is a significant improvement on the situation in 2011. However, sometimes the information about pupils’ academic capabilities was insufficient and providers did not fully understand how to use it to support learning and promote achievement.
  18. 18. Alternative provision 2016 | 18 Main findings  The vast majority of providers had carefully assessed the risks that pupils might encounter during their placements, either through the activity they were doing or through their own behaviour. The best practice was seen where schools and providers took joint responsibility for ensuring that good quality assessments of any risk were carried out. However around 7% of providers had not had any conversations with schools about potential risks, or were unable to provide any evidence of the risk assessment processes to inspectors.  Providers are usually safe places with a reasonable quality of accommodation and resources. The best provision seen during the survey was of a very high standard. However, there was often a contrast between high quality accommodation for vocational courses and classrooms unsuited to promoting high academic standards.
  19. 19. Alternative provision 2016 | 19 Main findings  The overwhelming majority of pupils had positive comments to make about:  their enjoyment of the provision  what they were learning  how well they were supported  the impact the provision was having on their behaviour, attitudes, attendance and outcomes at school.
  20. 20. Recommendations
  21. 21. Alternative provision 2016 | 21 Recommendations for school leaders School leaders should: check carefully the registration status of each provider they use and check whether they should be registered if they are not never use AP that is contravening the regulations about registration ensure that they check whether staff at registered alternative provision have had the appropriate checks, for example Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks consider fully the potential risks involved in unregistered placements where no staff or not all staff have DBS or other relevant checks and act to minimise these  
  22. 22. Alternative provision 2016 | 22 Recommendations for school leaders, cont.  discuss, agree and give to providers information in writing about social networking, the use of social media and e-safety, making the school’s expectations clear  give providers good quality information in writing about the school’s expectations for child protection and procedures they should follow if they have a concern about a pupil  support providers to access appropriate safeguarding training and information for providers  systematically evaluate the quality of teaching and learning at the AP they use, and the impact of this on pupils’ progress towards the qualifications they are studying at their placements
  23. 23. Alternative provision 2016 | 23 Recommendations for school leaders, cont.  systematically evaluate the academic, personal and social progress being made by all pupils who attend AP, ensuring that the targets set for academic progress are suitably challenging  consider ways to track and evaluate the impact of AP on pupils’ employability skills  ensure that governors understand the progress made by pupils who attend AP so they can ensure that decisions made about value for money are well-informed.
  24. 24. Alternative provision 2016 | 24 Recommendations for the DfE The DfE should: give schools clear guidance about how they can best check the safety and suitability of staff working in unregistered alternative provision strongly consider revising the threshold for providers to register as independent schools consider the findings of this survey alongside the recent government consultation about out-of-school education settings give Ofsted direct access, as necessary, to all alternative providers that take pupils of compulsory school age for six hours or more.
  25. 25. Alternative provision 2016 | 25 Recommendations for Ofsted Ofsted will: continue to evaluate thoroughly the use of AP in all section 5 inspections include a special focus on AP in a proportion of inspections of secondary schools, to include visits to alternative providers.
  26. 26. Unregistered providers
  27. 27. Quick discussion: When does an alternative provider have to be registered?
  28. 28. Alternative provision 2016 | 28 Unregistered providers A provider of AP should be registered as an independent school if it caters full-time for five or more pupils of compulsory school age or one such pupil who is looked after or has a statement of special educational needs (DfE, Alternative Provision, 2013) NB – if the provision is run by the local authority it has to be registered as a pupil referral unit, not an independent school – but the same criteria apply. Registered = inspected; not registered = not inspected
  29. 29. Alternative provision 2016 | 29 Unregistered providers  Throughout the survey, HMI found schools that were sending their pupils to providers that should have been registered as independent schools.  Provision that should have been registered by a local authority as a pupil referral unit was also found.  A common issue was where a school was sending only one pupil to a provider, or was sending pupils only part-time, but had failed to check how many pupils from other schools were also attending the provider and on what basis.
  30. 30. Alternative provision 2016 | 30 Unregistered providers  Schools too often assumed that the provider would have registered with the DfE if they needed to, but this was not always the case.  Altogether, Ofsted referred 17 providers to the DfE following survey visits, 14 of which the DfE judged should have been registered as independent schools or pupil referral units.  These have all since closed, or registered and therefore will be inspected in the future.
  31. 31. Schools How many, and which, of the providers you use are registered (as a college, a school, a PRU)? How do you know if they are registered or not? If you use some that are unregistered, how would you know if the need for them to register changed (for example, if another school started to send more pupils which tipped the numbers into the requirement to register)? Do you need to change any of your practice to take the registration issue into account?
  32. 32. Local authorities/partnerships/academy chains If you keep a central list of providers for schools to refer to, do you know if the providers on that list are registered – and how do you know? How do you know whether their registration status is correct (i.e. whether there are any that are unregistered but should be registered)? If there are some on the list that are unregistered, how would you know if the need for them to register changed (i.e. if numbers increased)? Do you need to change any of your practice to take the registration issue into account?
  33. 33. Providers (unregistered) Are you confident that you meet the requirements for being unregistered? If you take any pupils full-time, how do you know if any of them are looked after of have a statement of special educational needs or a education, health and care plan? Are you confident that the school makes this clear to you when a pupils begins? Registered providers If you have made the move from non-registered to registered, what can you tell other providers about making this a successful process?
  34. 34. Safeguarding and health and safety
  35. 35. Alternative provision 2016 | 35 Visiting the placements  Of the 448 providers that were visited by inspectors as part of this survey, 5% reported that the school had not visited at all, including prior to the placement being set up.  A very small number had visited in advance of the placement but not since. Of these, some had visits arranged for later in the term.  The majority (70%) of providers reported that school staff visited their pupil at the placement at least once each term.  Of these, a small number received at least weekly visits from school staff. This tended to be where the pupil or pupils had more complex needs and a greater need for support.  
  36. 36. Alternative provision 2016 | 36 Visiting the placements ‘Where schools do not visit the alternative provision they are using they are reliant on second-hand information not only about essential aspects of safeguarding but also about the pupil’s general welfare and progress.’ Ofsted 2016
  37. 37. Schools What concerns you about the statistics you’ve just heard? Is it ever acceptable for a school not to visit the alternative provision they are using for their pupils? Where does your practice fit into this? At what point do you visit the provision you are going to use or are using, and for what purpose? Does what you’ve heard and the discussion you’ve just had with colleagues make you think you need to change your practice?
  38. 38. Local authorities/partnerships/ academy chains What concerns you about the statistics you’ve just heard? Is it ever acceptable for a school not to visit the alternative provision they are using for their pupils? If you have your own system of visiting providers, what do you then expect of schools? Does what you’ve heard and the discussion you’ve just had with colleagues make you think you need to change your practice?
  39. 39. Providers What concerns you about the statistics you’ve just heard? Is it ever acceptable for a school not to visit the alternative provision they are using for their pupils? If a school does not visit, what do you do about this? Is the pupil still allowed to start their placement? Does what you’ve heard and the discussion you’ve just had with colleagues make you think you need to change your practice?
  40. 40. Alternative provision 2016 | 40 Assessing potential risks  87% of the providers visited had risk assessments of some kind in place.  In around half, ‘risk assessment’ was a process that involved discussions between the school and the provider to evaluate the potential risks for each pupil at the placement, prior to the pupil starting.  This process enabled the school to tell the provider about the pupils’ needs, including any behaviours or special needs that might be relevant, and for the provider to consider these in the context of the placement, for example when using particular equipment or associating with members of the public.  Following the discussion a risk assessment summary was produced to show how these risks could be minimised.
  41. 41. Alternative provision 2016 | 41 Assessing potential risks  In the other half of the providers that had risk assessments in place, these were more of a paper exercise than a process.  Risk assessment documents had usually been generated by the school or in some cases by the provider or the local authority but there had not been any discussions between the school and provider prior to pupils’ placements about whether the assessment was accurate or appropriate for each pupil.  Just over half of the schools surveyed offered pupils comprehensive briefings or other activities related to how to keep safe in their placements before they went.  However, 21% of schools (35) relied wholly on the providers to brief pupils on-site at the start of their placements on how to keep safe, without knowing first-hand whether this was of sufficient or good enough quality.
  42. 42. Alternative provision 2016 | 42 Assessing potential risks Strongest practice included a number of the following elements. Detailed discussions held between the school, provider, pupil and parent or carer in advance of the placement and at regular intervals. Both the activity itself and the pupil in the context of the activity assessed for risk and the specific risk assessment agreed at the first meeting between the provider and the school. Risk assessments completed by the provider and checked by the school. Frequent checks made by the school, and the provider ensuring that health and safety was a high priority when pupils were working on practical activities such as car maintenance.
  43. 43. Alternative provision 2016 | 43 Assessing potential risks  Health and safety risks were taught as part of the induction process or as part of the course and risk assessments were adapted accordingly.  Risk assessments included those associated with travelling to and from the provider. Weaknesses included the following.  Generic rather than individual risk assessment.  Established or historic relationship between the provider and school deemed to be sufficient so no risk assessments.  No systematic approach to risk assessment from the school – leaving it up to the provider.  The school failing to look at the risk assessments carried out by the provider.
  44. 44. Alternative provision 2016 | 44 Assessing potential risks  Little thought given to risks associated with certain aspects of a placement, for example those where pupils could mix freely with the public.  The school trusting providers or local authority to carry out risk assessments without checking this happened or relying on other agencies to carry these out.  The school assuming the provider will have a risk assessment process but not checking.  The provider expecting the school to produce a risk assessment if needed and relying on them for this to happen.  A lack of visits and checks by school staff despite having challenging pupils on placements.
  45. 45. Alternative provision 2016 | 45 Child protection  Only a quarter of providers had received any written information about child protection from the school sending the pupil.  Only around one in 10 of the providers had received full copies of the school’s child protection policies.  Only 7% (33) of the providers had had any information from or discussion with schools about the use of social networking.  The majority of providers had not undergone any formal child protection training.  Laptops used at alternative providers did not always have appropriate firewalls or filters to prevent pupils accessing inappropriate material.
  46. 46. Schools How do you assess the potential risks of an alternative provision placement for your pupils? How do you check that these risk assessments remain up to date as things change – for example, the pupil’s own behaviours or needs, other pupils starting at the placement, different activities being carried out? What child protection information do you provide, including about e-safety? Are there any elements of the good practice that you might now consider including or any aspects of your own good practice that you would add to this list?
  47. 47. Local authorities/partnerships/ academy chains If you hold a central list of alternative provision, how do you ensure that they are safe and how do you assess risks for different groups of pupils who are likely to attend? If you have a quality assurance role for alternative provision, how do you assess risk for different pupils? How do you check that these risk assessments remain up to date as things change – for example, the pupil’s own behaviours or needs, other pupils starting at the placement, different activities being carried out? How do you ensure that child protection is secure?
  48. 48. Providers How do you assess the risks of your placement? Does the risk differ for each pupil? How does the school help you with this process? Is there more that they could do to improve the process further? What else could you ask for (for example, specific information?) How do you check that these risk assessments remain up to date as things change – for example, the pupil’s own behaviours or needs, other pupils starting at the placement, different activities being carried out? How well informed are you about child protection, including e-safety? Is there anything you might do differently in the future to make sure pupils are safe?
  49. 49. Curriculum
  50. 50. Alternative provision 2016 | 50 Curriculum Better than in 2011 but still needs improvement… In 75% of schools visited, inspectors found that the curriculum offered to pupils attending AP included English and mathematics courses that led to accreditation and that it was broad and balanced overall. In another 16% of schools, inspectors noted some lack of breadth or depth. Here, a few subjects gave way to AP, but the core subjects were still being studied. There were still substantial gaps in some pupils’ timetables in almost 10% of the schools visited (16), either with insufficient provision for English and mathematics, or timetables that included English and mathematics but were too narrowly focused on a very few activities across each week. (NB percentages are rounded so do not add up to 100)
  51. 51. Alternative provision 2016 | 51 Curriculum for pupils attending alternative provision part time  In the best examples AP ran alongside or incorporated English, mathematics and science, offered a range of vocational and academic options, and ensured full participation in programmes of PE, RE, citizenship and PSHE.  Schools often achieved a balanced curriculum by AP taking place on a day or on half days each week that the school reserved for optional subjects.  In some other schools, the cohort attending AP attended at a common time and the pupils were taught English and mathematics as a discrete group on their return - no core lessons missed.  Where small numbers of pupils attended AP, English and mathematics were sometimes missed. Catch-up arrangements were largely fine but occasionally weak.
  52. 52. Alternative provision 2016 | 52 Curriculum for pupils attending AP part time  AP replaced an aspect of pupils’ curriculum diet. This varied widely between schools but was often humanities, modern language or arts options.  In a very small minority of instances, subjects important to the health and personal development of pupils, including PE, RE, citizenship and PSHE were also missing from pupils’ timetables.  Provision that took account of shortcomings in pupils’ timetables included focus days when the timetable was suspended.
  53. 53. Alternative provision 2016 | 53 Curriculum for pupils attending AP full time  Providers generally ensured that pupils had a similar breadth of curriculum as they would in mainstream education.  The curriculum was often supplemented with a range of counselling, advice and work-related experiences relevant to needs of pupils who often had some of the more complex and longstanding behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.  Smaller providers often had links with mainstream schools to access specialist resources, such as science or technology rooms.  However, not all schools that commissioned full-time provision checked adequately on the quality of the curriculum on offer.
  54. 54. Alternative provision 2016 | 54 Curriculum for pupils attending AP full time Weaker practice: In six of the schools visited where most or all pupils who attended AP did so full time, inspectors found key shortcomings, including: work was pitched at too low a level given the pupils’ capabilities very narrow curriculum, for example wholly focused on literacy, numeracy and ICT and missing out PSHE education, sex and relationships education and PE little or no English and mathematics few lessons and mainly the social activities of a youth club some pupils were not being provided with full-time education or training of 25 hours a week.
  55. 55. Attainment and progress
  56. 56. Alternative provision 2016 | 56 Accreditation Best examples Schools recognised that pupils needed to gain the best possible qualifications that they could in English, mathematics and a range of other relevant subjects, as well as developing their personal, social and employability skills. Schools focused strongly on making sure that pupils were supported as well as possible in all these aspects, and not just to achieve well on their AP courses. Weakest examples Overall aspirations for pupils attending AP were too low. Too much focus was placed on re-engagement alone and the focus on academic achievement was marginalised.
  57. 57. Alternative provision 2016 | 57 Accreditation  Unless they attended AP full-time, most pupils took GCSE English and mathematics at school.  Data gathered for 2,200 pupils over the three-year period of the survey.  Almost three quarters of these pupils gained a GCSE qualification in English with the same proportion attaining a GCSE grade in mathematics.  Almost half of the 2,200 pupils were successful in gaining a GCSE qualification in both English and mathematics. About one fifth attained a grade A* to C in one or both of these GCSEs.  About a quarter of pupils gained accreditation in qualifications other than GCSE in English, with a slightly smaller proportion in mathematics, usually functional skills or adult literacy and numeracy.  Wide variation in attainment of AP pupils from school to school.
  58. 58. Alternative provision 2016 | 58 Accreditation  Almost all AP used by the schools led to some form of accreditation.  The qualifications were closely linked to the specialist settings of the AP and often provided direct progression to local college courses post-16.  Qualifications were usually at level 1 and sometimes level 2. At times, pupils were studying for level 1 qualifications at their placement but level 2 at school – level 1 was not ambitious enough for them.
  59. 59. Alternative provision 2016 | 59 Progress from starting points  Too many schools lacked clarity about what constituted ‘good progress’ for their pupils who attended AP.  In some cases, individualised target setting led to a low level of challenge and low expectations of performance that were out of line with national expectations.  Sometimes, there was a lack of emphasis on helping pupils to accelerate their progress to make up for previous underachievement once AP had helped them to re-engage with school and with learning.
  60. 60. Schools Consider either: To what extent does your curriculum organisation help or hinder the pupils who attend AP? Is the curriculum broad enough? How do you make sure they do not miss out on crucial elements of the curriculum such as PSHE or sex and relationships education? Or What do you consider to be good progress for your pupils who attend AP? Are you confident that this an aspirational definition? Is there any mismatch between the level of the accreditation that your pupils take at school and at AP?
  61. 61. Local authorities/partnerships/ academy chains If you commission AP on behalf of your schools, or place the names of AP providers on a list, what are your criteria for determining whether the curriculum is appropriate? What level qualifications do your providers offer? Is having accredited qualifications at the right level a criteria for selection? When you monitor schools for LA purposes, such as RI schools or serious weaknesses/ special measures schools, how do you explore whether the AP they use is appropriate and leads to good outcomes for pupils? What kind of evidence do you ask for?
  62. 62. Providers What level of qualifications are you offering? Are you happy that these are at the right level for the pupils you are providing for? Are you able to offer a qualification at a higher level for a pupil who is clearly capable of achieving more? What kind of information do you give to the school about the progress that pupils are making?

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