Hackney and Islington teachers defend Pupil Referral Units

Pupil sitting exam

Pupil sitting exam - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Teachers from Hackney and Islington have defended Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and Alternative Provision (AP) and suggested ways the Mayor of London’s education programme could support the institutions.

To measure the effectiveness of PRUs, they called for assessing children’s social and emotional progress - not just recording how many 14 to 16-year-olds achieved five A to C GCSE grades.

PRUs and AP are an alternative to mainstream education for children who have been excluded or who are not attending school.

But just how useful they are has come under fire in light of poor academic results.

The London Assembly Education Panel held a meeting on November 26 to discuss challenges PRUs and AP currently face.

Anna Cain, chief executive and head of Boxing Academy, in Hackney Grove, said: “Really and truly, I know that what we do with these young people is a completely life changing experience. I have children who are now in university who would not have got a single qualification in a mainstream school.”

She added: “We are all saying the same thing: we want to be recognising what each child’s journey is, not just a general league table.”

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Ms Cain spoke alongside guests Gabrielle Grodentz, head of AP in Islington and AP heads from Redbridge and west London, John d’Abbro and Seamus Oates.

In London, there are 59 PRUs attended by about 3,000 pupils –not counting the number of pupils that divide their time between school and AP.

Many are from deprived backgrounds, and face issues including family breakdown, domestic violence, alcohol and drug problems and mental health issues.

The speakers told London Assembly’s Jeanette Arnold OBE, who was chairing the meeting, highly qualified staff and special provisions for these children added to the value of AP.

Ms Grodentz said: “AP provides courses that cannot be on offer in mainstream school or are not on offer, so that are discrete to industries. Students will take to those, because to them they can then see an end game.”

The guests also said circumstances around behavioural problems in young people were more complex than they were 20 years ago.

Mr d’Abbro said: “One thing it would be remiss of us not to mention is foetal alcohol syndrome. This is one big change we are now seeing that you would not have seen 20 years ago.”

Other issues discussed were the need for solid partnerships with schools, a London-wide guideline for quality assessment and funding.

A webcast of the meeting on the London Assembly website.