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With the changes to funding over the last few years, it is increasingly likely that schools will want to handle alternative provisions in-house to avoid the cost of supporting pupils being taught elsewhere.

There are various ways to address the issues within school and we will cover some of those today.

Nurture Groups

For younger students, Nurture Groups have provided an established and well evidenced way to bridge the social skills gap that often creates the situations that lead to fixed term exclusions. Setting up an accredited Nurture Group within your primary school can be a great way to ensure that the social learning that some of your pupils may have missed out on can be addressed in students that are identified as at risk of fixed term exclusions.

A true Nurture Group needs two staff members trained and accredited by the Nurture Group Network. Pupils spend time there, focusing on language and emotional development within a supportive and caring environment. The interaction between the two staff provides a model for the students to learn from and an emphasis is placed on caring and looking after each other at mealtimes and during activities.

These groups can be utilised in secondary settings, as well as primary and early years. Many of the students whose behaviour starts to suggest a pattern of social difficulties could benefit from the sort of preventative provision that a Nurture Group can provide. The initial investment in staffing and resources is on the surface quite high, but when weighed against the impact that exclusions have both on student and school, the investment can more than pay off.

Alternative Curricula

Many secondary schools fund places for KS4 students on work-based learning or alternative curricula either part-time or full-time. These can be valuable learning experiences for some students, but are much more likely to be viewed negatively. Students can see them either as a badge of honour; a reward for poor behaviour, while others still find them to be a rejection, one which pushes them further into disaffection.

Rather than have all your WBL provision off-site, why not offer accredited courses of a more alternative nature through your school? Utilise the outside interests and skills of existing staff, including learning support staff and even premises management to find untapped talents that can be drawn upon.

Initial investment in staff development will create a bank of assessors and instructors in qualifications such as childcare, construction, horticulture and even mechanics if you are really lucky.

To be able to meet the resource needs of some of these courses will require the use of external buildings, but to be able to provide the qualifications and learning experiences yourself means that the costs can be reduced and the negative associations of rejection and disaffection can hopefully be avoided, not to mention the benefits to your staff morale of the investment in their own development.

Bringing alternative provision in-house may just help you reduce the level of exclusion and disaffection you have to deal with, as well as ultimately reduce the cost to your school.