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(UK) 'Children, as young as 5, taken out of school for violent behaviour'

Nov 8. 2022, tes Magazine: Ofsted: Lack of SEND help in primaries is fuelling AP rise

Vulnerable children are ‘languishing’ in alternative provision for years while waiting for a special school place, warns Ofsted

A lack of specialist help means more primary school pupils with additional needs are being referred to alternative provision (AP), Ofsted has found….

The findings are contained in a new Ofsted study today exploring why primary-age pupils are referred to AP.

Around 7,000 primary-age children in England are currently known to be in AP. While this is a small proportion of all primary pupils, Ofsted notes, the number has risen by over a quarter in the past five years.

Primary school staff told Ofsted that the strain on specialist services nationally - exacerbated by the pandemic - has made it more difficult to support pupils with special educational needs. Ofsted warned that schools’ limited access to professional help, such as speech and language therapists or educational psychology services, could be leading to more AP referrals and potentially more permanent exclusions.

Staff at an one provider told the education watchdog that AP felt like a “dumping ground” for pupils who needed a special school place.

PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS REFERRED TO ALTERNATIVE PROVISION And AP staff said they did not feel that they can meet those pupils’ needs fully. If these vulnerable pupils do not receive appropriate teaching and support for a long time, this is likely to affect them negatively, Ofsted warned.

The new report says that most pupils involved in the study were referred to AP because of violent behaviour.

School staff referred pupils to AP when they were not able to meet their additional needs because of a lack of funding, training or facilities.

The Ofsted findings are based on research carried out between September and November last year from a sample of: 10 primary schools; eight alternative-provision settings; one social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) school; and five local authorities.

The study found that while most primary-age pupils only stayed in AP for a few weeks or months, and usually attended part-time, some children with additional needs stay in AP for years while they wait for a special school place.

Ofsted said AP staff may be unable to meet their needs fully in the meantime and that “the absence of appropriate teaching and specialist support could have long-term consequences for these vulnerable children”.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “It seems shocking that primary-age children, as young as 5, could be taken out of school for violent behaviour. But, as our study shows, AP can be a positive choice for these children and play a transformative role in their young lives….

School staff believed pupils’ violent behaviour often stemmed from difficult home lives or undiagnosed special educational needs and disabilities.

A large majority of children in the study had social, emotional and/or health needs. Ofsted says this aligns with national statistics on pupils referred to AP. However, the watchdog’s report adds that it knows from inspection that needs are sometimes labelled as SEMH or SEND “when, in fact, they originate from inadequately designed curriculums or poor teaching”.

It says: “While there are children who have severe, profound or multiple needs, others are identified as having SEND during key stages 2 or 3, which can be traced back to a poor curriculum and poor teaching in the early years and key stage 1, rather than a genuine need or difficulty.”


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