When a child or young person is permanently excluded, at risk of exclusion, or is unable to access mainstream school for reasons such as ill health, education outside of school will be arranged. This is known as Alternative Learning Provision (ALP) or more commonly Alternative Provision (AP). AP is the means by which local authorities fulfil their legal obligation to ensure that all children of compulsory school age receive a suitable education. It can be for as little as a morning a week or as much as five days a week. Designed to be a short-term intervention, many children nonetheless find themselves in AP for significant lengths of time.
Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) are probably the most well known type of Alternative Provision, but they are far from the only type. Other types of AP include hospital education, AP free schools and Independent Alternative Learning providers such as forest schools, outdoor activity centres and other more therapeutic offerings. They differ widely in what they do and how well they do it, and while they in theory cater to all children, they are in practice largely orientated towards children in Key Stages 3 and above (i.e. Year 7 onwards).
Regrettably children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilites (SEND) are disproportionately represented in AP. Whilst for some children with SEND AP can be a positive experience - relieving the stress of mainstream school by providing a change of environment on one or two days a week, or acting as a bridge between a placement that has failed or is in danger of failing and a more suitable educational setting - sadly this is not the case for everyone. A significant number of children have negative and damaging experiences of AP, and there is an acknowledged absence of oversight and consistency in provision across the country. Crucially, APs are not generally designed with SEND children in mind, and so rarely offer the types of specialist strategies and support that SEND children require.
At SEND Advocacy we can advise on whether AP is something that may benefit your child, and if so how to ensure that a short term solution does not become a long-term problem. If you need someone in your corner to help you secure the education your child deserves, contact us today.