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Young People

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

I would like to bring the House up to date about measures that are intended to improve the outcomes for some of our most vulnerable young people and to help children at risk of falling behind with their education.

Around 135,000 children and young people each year are in some kind of alternative provision because they are excluded from, or for some other reason are unable to attend, mainstream school. These children and young people are currently provided for either in local authority-run pupil referral units or in other alternative provision commissioned by local authorities and schools. Only 1 per cent. of 15-year-olds in pupil referral units gain five or more good GCSE examination results.

The Government are publishing a White Paper that will transform alternative provision into a vibrant and successful part of the whole education system, working in close partnership with mainstream schools, special schools, with children’s services and other agencies, to meet the needs of young people more effectively.

Some of the most vulnerable children and young people are in some kind of alternative provision, and they have as much right as any other pupil to a good education that allows them to realise their potential and sets them on the path to success. The White Paper emphasises the key role for schools in identifying children with challenging behaviour early on, and being able to access the right support before they reach the point of permanent exclusion.

We recognise that there is much good practice in pupil referral units and other forms of alternative provision. However, we are determined to bring all providers of alternative provision and other support for children and young people up to the standard of the best so that we achieve a step change improvement in standards overall. Our proposals include:

intervening when pupil referral units fail, by requiring local authorities to replace them with a specified alternative, as announced in the draft legislative programme;

requiring a local authority, when necessary, to hold a competition to find the best provider of the specific alternative model that has been identified to replace a failing pupil referral unit;

collecting and publishing data annually on attendance at pupil referral units;

collecting and publishing educational outcomes data (GCSEs and equivalents) for pupils at the end of key stage 4 in alternative provision;

ensuring that all young people in alternative provision have a personalised education plan, so that their needs can be identified and assessed much earlier;

securing an appropriate curriculum entitlement for young people in alternative provision and work towards developing a national minimum standard of provision;

improving support for the workforce in pupil referral units and alternative provision and improving accommodation and facilities;

running up to 10 pilots to test a range of innovative and good practice models to deliver alternative provision.

We are confident that the proposals in this White Paper will address the weaknesses in the system and help young people get successfully back on track by creating a culture of early intervention, quality of provision, and strengthened accountability.