Ofsted warns on weaknesses in alternative provision

9 Feb 16

Schools are still not doing enough to ensure the quality and safety of outside providers educating their pupils, Ofsted has found.

Today’s report follows an initial survey in 2011, which found significant weaknesses in the way schools used external providers. Inspectors concluded this time that schools still lack clear guidance on safeguarding when selecting a provider, are uncertain about best practice and use providers that are not properly registered.

Schools use alternative provision for pupils at risk of being excluded from education or to try and re-engage challenging students in learning. Pupils may, for example, be sent on practical, work-related placements such as to a music studio or a farm.

Commenting on today’s findings, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for education, noted that, while progress has been made and awareness around alternative provision has increased, “there is still much to be done”.

Harford commended the fact that “schools are voting with their feet when it comes to poor providers” and are “working together to identify and commission better alternative provision”.

Ofsted inspectors, who visited 165 schools and their 448 alternative providers, found that more schools are refusing poor-quality alternative provision, working together to find good quality providers and developing in-house alternatives when they are not available locally.

They found that while providers are usually safe, with reasonable accommodation and resources for students, a small number are still contravening regulations regarding registration and schools are not always checking their providers’ registration status.

Harford said it is “vitally important” that schools recognise their responsibility to ensure the safety of pupils and the quality of education they receive when sent to external providers, especially because often they are some of the most vulnerable children in the education system.

“The message is filtering through but I hope that this report will help to hit home that every pupil in alternative provision has the right to the same quality of education and care that they would get in the school classroom,” he concluded.

Ofsted makes several recommendations for school leaders, including careful checks of providers’ registration status and avoidance those contravening regulation. Schools should also consider the risks of unregistered placements where not all staff have Disclosure and Barring Service checks and help providers access appropriate safeguarding training.

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