The long awaited Timpson Review has continued to address the questions around exclusion practices in schools and the support provided by Alternative Provision (AP) settings, including highlighting an urgent need to invest in capital funding to expand buildings and facilities for pupils who need AP.
The central conclusion of the report saw solutions based in encouraging inclusion methods within mainstream schools as a way of tackling consequences of exclusion such as poor GCSE grades and risks of gang violence. Although this will lead to a reduction in the overall exclusion figures, vulnerable children may not be receiving the support they require remaining in mainstream schools.
NSN believes that an outstanding AP sector is integral to confronting the consequences around exclusion. Children in APs are able to receive specialised support in a smaller, less pressurised setting equipping them to return to mainstream schools as soon as possible.
This can be seen in the recommendations which are already taking place in free schools, such as collaboration between stakeholders on commissioning places in AP.
The ContinU Plus Academy was set up through local collaboration, with schools and organisations involved in the ContinU Trust who worked together to determine the need for a new AP free school and the appropriate commissioning arrangements. The AP serves 120 pupils, focusing on a range of vocational options, including its own LEGO innovation studio. The school opened in 2013 and received a Good Ofsted rating in 2015.
More recently, the trust worked with their partners to identify gaps in provision, including working with 32 primary schools who identified a need for an AP primary school.
AP free schools have been leading the way for innovation and successful practice in the sector. Earlier this week Director of NSN, Luke Tryl, visited the Boxing Academy. The school, opened in 2016, was previously a successful independent school that chose to convert in order to reach more young people. They use sport to empower their students, teach them to manage their anger, give them confidence in their learning and direct them towards further education or employment.
Timpson has given a starting point for reform of exclusions and the AP sector. While AP free schools are beginning to meet demand, there are many parts of England that remain without, desperately in need of high quality AP to support our most vulnerable children. The review is a starting point; now we need policy makers to take seriously the demand.