Conducting due diligence on alternative provisions should be of paramount importance. The provision should prioritise supporting students with specific needs and implementing the most effective support possible.
Integrating an effective alternative provision can be achieved by identifying the specific needs of students and providing an element of support that they feel most comfortable with. This is so their personal development can be prioritised in terms of their well-being and academic growth and potentially lead to a successful reintegration.
There are indeed unregistered alternative provisions in the UK that could hinder the progression of students. This is why due diligence must be completed by schools when choosing the most suitable provider. As highlighted in the DfE guidance, schools should take ownership of the safety of their students in every circumstance:
“252. Ultimately schools are responsible for the safeguarding and welfare of pupils educated off-site. Therefore, by using code B, schools are certifying that the education is supervised, and measures have been taken to safeguard the pupil. Schools should ensure that they have in place arrangements whereby the provider of the educational activity notifies the school of any absences by the pupil. The school should record the pupil’s absence using the relevant absence code.”
Safeguarding is paramount. However, positively reintegrating students and using alternative provision as an effective stepping stone for students is also crucial. Tracking the attendance and attainment levels of students is important, but tracking the welfare of students is just as vital. Nevertheless, here are five good tips you can take when conducting due diligence on alternative provisions:
1. Research the provision’s reputation
A provider’s reputation will always be the main aspect to look for when choosing the most suitable provision. There can be plenty of ways to do this online such as using review websites or going by word of mouth.
Hearing what other schools, parents and educators say about the provision will give you a clear indication as to whether they will be effective for your student who is struggling. How have they been perceived when delivering high-quality education? Do they appropriately safeguard students? These alongside several other factors should all be considered.
2. Review the provider’s curriculum and teaching methods
Providing high-quality teaching and learning that aligns with students’ specific needs and interests is crucial. Their personal development is key to providing better outcomes and experiences that will ultimately allow them to have improved futures when they move into adult life.
Is the curriculum standardised, is it flexible and does it accommodate the learning levels of each student? How is the education delivered to students and is there support available for them if they are struggling with something in particular such as equations or photosynthesis?
3. Visit the provider’s facilities and meet the staff
It’s also good to schedule a meeting or tour of the chosen provider in question to check their facilities and methods of practice. It’s good to see how they function, operate and outline what else is incorporated to see if they are suitable. Ask the provider about their culture, what training is supplied for employees and how they support students.
4. Ask about the provider’s experience with students with special needs
A majority of students in alternative provisions have SEN requirements and need additional support. The SEND & AP improvement plan outlines:
“82% of children and young people in state-place funded alternative provision have identified special educational needs, and it is increasingly being used to supplement local SEND systems.”
When evaluating a provider make sure they have experience in supporting students with special needs or similar challenges. It is a good idea to ask about their accommodations and modifications policies that make students feel comfortable when they are learning so they can thrive.
5. Ask about the provider’s policies and procedures
Highlighting a provider’s policies and procedures can give you a better understanding of how the provision can benefit a student’s needs. How do they assess their needs and what can they put in place to effectively support students?
It is also beneficial to see what support the provision can offer regarding implementing a pathway that can lead to development and further understanding in terms of academic knowledge and well-being. Students who are struggling need to have a provision that is robust with standards and regulations. It’s also crucial to ensure they have multiple policies such as safeguarding and admissions policies.
Consider using an online alternative provision
An online alternative provision, such as EDClass, can provide many benefits for schools and students who might be struggling. An online AP can allow education to be focused on and eliminate any worries, doubts or concerns for students who may have mental health challenges.
An effective online alternative provision should have robust and sophisticated safeguarding features integrated to ensure a student is safe when learning online. In addition to this, they should have some sort of support from a qualified teacher so they can develop their understanding. It’s also good to build rapport with students online so that eventually they can regain confidence in their learning and potentially a positive reintegration.