One of the greatest issues facing all areas of education is funding and the stretch that is being placed on school budgets at all levels.
Many alternative provisions do not receive direct funding from the DfE and rely on daily rates paid directly by schools as their primary source of funding.
School budgets are being stretched more than they have been for years and we are faced with a situation where school leaders will be forced to make some difficult decisions. We may see that referrals to alternative provisions may be reprioritised within existing budgets.
As we move to a post-pandemic world we are all facing challenges across all areas of education. For many students, remote learning has worked well and they have engaged in education within a calm, purposeful environment with adequate IT access which does not have to be shared. But, this has not been the experience for many students within alternative provisions and those at risk of being referred.
Students struggle to engage in alternative provisions
Many students have struggled to engage with remote learning throughout the pandemic and have missed key development points at each transition stage and schools are finding that these gaps need to be addressed.
The disengagement that these students have experienced throughout the pandemic can manifest as poor behaviour as they return to the classrooms and many schools have struggled to meet the needs of these students.
Students who have been in alternative provisions throughout the pandemic have suffered more than most students.
This is a situation where the disadvantaged become more deprived as many of these students do not come from families that promote an effective climate for learning and often do not have the resources needed to do so.
Whilst APs have remained open throughout the pandemic and have encouraged students to attend, the reality was that many chose not to attend.
Alternative provisions have experienced significant challenges in re-engaging students post-pandemic.
Students who have not engaged have had to be taught how to engage with routine, behaviour expectations and gaps in their knowledge that need to be filled.
Many students referred to alternative provisions over the last few months present as dysregulated and have significant gaps in their knowledge.
A significant majority of the students I have seen referred to alternative provisions come without an adequate graduated response and require targeted intervention and support to help them reengage and succeed within education settings.
The work required to support identified students requires targeted 1:1 support with trained professionals, but many of these students come without additional funding despite their presenting needs.
My experience within alternative provisions has seen a bottleneck of places; there is a significant shortage of places within the city I work and an even greater shortage of places within specialist provisions.
This means that students can become stuck in alternative provisions until the end of Year 11 which often causes further dysregulation and disengagement as they are not in the right setting.
What should an alternative provision do?
An effective alternative provision needs to work extremely closely with families, referring schools and relevant agencies to fully understand the child and their needs; there should not be a fixed approach to dealing with a child and their family.
I firmly believe though that an alternative provision should not lower the standards/ expectations placed on a child and should have high aspirations for all students referred.
Many students referred to alternative provisions have the potential to achieve good exam results but often need a flexible approach in a different setting to achieve this.
Students referred to alternative provisions need resetting and re-engaging so they can move forward with their education. Every student I have seen enter alternative provision has, in my opinion, experienced failure; they feel rejected from a mainstream system and this mindset needs addressing in the first instance so they can move forward.
High-quality teachers who understand the backgrounds and special educational needs are key to supporting students in alternative provisions.
The best examples I have seen of effective alternative provisions are where they work in partnership with the referring mainstream school so that students and their families remain supported and do not feel further disengagement. I also believe that quality career guidance needs to be central to rebuilding engagement and aspiration.
If you would like some more information on an effective alternative provision then be sure to look at Southway.
An online alternative provision solution?
Alternative provisions no longer have to be in a physical setting and several students even prefer online learning following the brunt of the pandemic.
Have you got students who are struggling to access a mainstream school setting, whatever their circumstances? Would they benefit from an online alternative provision? Would having one-to-one support from UK-qualified teachers at a click of a button be helpful to them at home?
EDClass could be the perfect solution for such students. A relaxed learning environment that aids a positive reintegration, improves attendance and attainment and assists with behaviour repair has helped thousands of students reached true education potential.
For more information on EDClass call 01909 568 338 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.