Schools that don’t take pupils back from Alternative Provision should not be rated ‘outstanding’, MPs told

A school leader has told the Education Select Committee that Ofsted should refuse to rate schools ‘outstanding’ unless they take back pupils from Alternative Provision, and take in other children who struggle in mainstream education.

Speaking to MPs, David Whitaker, founding member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, said that, without this kind of provision, “Head Teachers should be forced to content themselves with a ‘good’ rating, no matter how strong their schools are in other areas.”

Mr Whitaker, the executive principal of Springwell Special Academy and Springwell Alternative Academy in Barnsley, was addressing MPs during a hearing on the subject of Alternative Provision.

He said: “I think the starting point is that schools need to be rewarded for being inclusive. There will continue to be an educational apartheid between pupils in mainstream schooling and those in alternative provision until we have a reward for Head Teachers to be genuinely inclusive, without the cliff-edge accountability that they face.

“They need to be encouraged, rewarded, championed, funded for the children to remain in their schools.”

His view was shared by other panellists on the day, including Emma Bradshaw, Head Teacher of The Limes College, a pupil-referral unit in south-east London.

Ms Bradshaw said: “I think that we need to be holding schools to account through the Ofsted process.

“Do you demonstrate that you send appropriate referrals, but also take and include kids who come back? So that we’re looking at that and making sure that it’s robust.”

Ms Bradshaw went on to suggest that inspectors should have different criteria when inspecting Alternative Provision from those used when inspecting mainstream schools.

She said: “You’re judging me on whether I’m getting five A-Cs, with English and maths and I might have them for six months, 12 months, 18 months if I’m lucky.”

“It needs to be much more sophisticated. Outcomes: are they ending up in the criminal-justice system? Are they ending up in a decent destination?” she added.

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