CATH MURRAY: Warming the Cold Spots of AP

15th May 2020

Today we’re launching a report that’s all about how we can get the best possible education for excluded children, and those at risk of exclusion, everywhere.

To find out what needs to change, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the staff, young people and leaders in schools for excluded children and we’ve seen some excellent practice.

But there are still places in the country where excluded children have a poor-to-zero chance of getting a good quality education. In eight local authorities every single excluded child is educated in schools rated poorly by Ofsted. And in 13 local authorities, not a single excluded child passed their English and maths GCSE in the past three years.

This does not have to be the case.

The pupils at Hackney Boxing Academy are highly engaged with their education, thanks to excellent teaching and strong relationships built through their sports coaching model.

Chessbrook in Watford has flipped their entire model to focus on therapeutic and remedial work upstream in their school community, guided by the brilliant work of the Anna Freud Centre on family engagement.

We’ve seen innovative curriculum design being developed at Aspire in Buckinghamshire or Olive Academy in Thurrock which, like the very best alternative provision schools, hold high expectations for their pupils.

The Bridge AP Academy in Fulham is delivering the prestigious International Baccalaureate diploma for its sixth formers – thanks to additional funding from the local council.

But this is exactly the problem. Many of these examples of excellent practice do depend on external funding or extraordinary funding arrangements. There is far too much variation across the country, in the money spent on these children, the data collected on them, and the quality of the education provided to them.

This is why we are asking, in today’s report, for a set of benchmarks to demonstrate what quality looks like, and a national fair funding formula for alternative provision to support it. We need a system improvement fund, to spread existing good practice throughout the country. And we need highly qualified specialist teachers working with this cohort.

These are children at whom life has thrown additional challenges. They are three times as likely to be on free school meals. Six times as likely to have a social worker, or to have been diagnosed with a special educational need.

This moment of national and global crisis, when more children than ever are at risk of falling through the net, is the time to invest in the education we provide for children who have been excluded from school.

Read the full report, Warming the Cold Spots of Alternative Provision: A manifesto for system improvement

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