This conference looked at next steps for alternative provision in England, as well as the implementation of proposed reforms to the AP system.
Stakeholders and policymakers discussed the Government’s SEND and AP Improvement Plan, recently published in response to its consultation on the SEND and AP green paper. Backed by £4.8m of funding, it aims to introduce new national standards over the next two to three years, and recommends an extension of AP specialist taskforces.
They also considered what will be needed to achieve government commitments to:
- prepare students for their return to mainstream education, and for adulthood
- use AP as both an intervention within the mainstream system and as a high-quality standalone provision
- introduce a national combined framework for AP and SEND
- expand training programmes so children receive the help they need sooner
- improve direct interventions for young people, through the use of the AP specialist taskforces
The conference was an opportunity to assess the support that will be needed in order for the outlined reforms to be effective in enhancing children’s outcomes, as well as priorities for improving quality and standards across the sector.
Delegates discussed strategies for preventing children from needing to be excluded from school, and how to strengthen coordination across all local education services.
They looked at how to best engage with parents and guardians to identify individual needs and improve young people’s experiences of alternative provision, including in the support and care required by over-represented groups.
Further sessions examined the sustainability of the AP system, following an Ofsted report on alternative provision for primary-age pupils in England published in November 2022, which found that many providers struggle to access external support, and children with additional needs often wait years for a special school place.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with Liz Franey, Deputy Director, Alternative Provision and SAFE/AP Taskforce Division, Department for Education; Zelpher Ferguson, Behaviour Consultant and Strategist, Aluna Behaviour Consultancy; and Sarah Johnson, President, PRUsAP; and Founder, Phoenix Education Consultancy.
Overall, sessions in the agenda looked at:
- system reform in England: the review proposals - the Government’s response to consultation - issues for implementation of a single SEND and AP system - national performance frameworks
- reducing exclusions: addressing root causes - understanding factors outside school which lead to children being excluded - implementing behaviour management strategies in schools
- support priorities: early intervention - identifying individual needs - coordinating support across services - engaging parents and guardians - helping families navigate the AP system
- pupil outcomes:
- improving student attainment and experience of AP
- evaluating quality and standards of provision - supporting over-represented groups in AP settings
- transparency on student progress and achievement - improving engagement with the wider education system
- further progression: promoting and supporting opportunities - employer-led schemes for hiring AP leavers - linking with national and local policies for skills and employment
- AP sector sustainability: evaluating local needs and allocation of support - growing capacity - opportunities for national funding frameworks - mitigating the impact of inconsistent placements
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the DfE; Department for the Economy, NI; Department of Education, NI; DESC; GLD; HMCTS; HMPPS; MOJ; Ofcom; Ofsted; and YCS.