HC Deb 09 November 2000 vol 356 cc358-60W
Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what discussions he has had with disaffected young people about the framework and curriculum of pupil referral units. [137084]

Jacqui Smith

Officials from my Department regularly meet disaffected young people, including as part of the recent review of the Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Standards Fund grant. We are also reviewing standards at pupil referral units (PRUs) and are arranging to meet pupils who have been excluded from school to find out from them what worked in PRUs. Ofsted inspection of PRUs usually includes discussion with students about the education they receive. The recently established Children's and Young People's Unit is considering how we can increase the involvement of children and young people in the design and delivery of policies and services that affect them.

My officials are also working with a number of voluntary sector partners to develop innovative programmes for disaffected pupils.

Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what guidelines he has issued on pupil/teacher ratios in pupil referral units; [137083]

(2) what guidance he has given pupil referral units about reintegrating pupils into mainstream education; [137080]

(3) what special training is given to staff working in pupil referral units. [137078]

Jacqui Smith

As part of comprehensive guidance covering pupil attendance, behaviour and exclusion my right hon. Friend issued detailed guidance in July 1999 on staffing and training in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and re-integration into mainstream education of pupils attending PRUs.

Staff in PRUs must be qualified teachers. Teachers in their induction year may require additional training in meeting the needs of difficult and disruptive children. A PRU's management committee should help identify staff development needs and the local education authority should provide opportunities for career development and in-service training. Training should include national curriculum courses, behaviour management and, where relevant, guidance from subject advisers on the curriculum.

Following exclusion, an individual re-integration plan should be drawn up for the pupil. Where possible, excluded pupils should be re-integrated as quickly as possible. It is expected that primary pupils will be re-integrated within one term. By 2002 all excluded pupils must be offered full-time education.

Staffing levels in PRUs should allow time to plan for individual pupils; helping pupils' re-entry into education or employment; building relationships with pupils and parents and administrative tasks. It is considered good practice for a PRU always to have at least two members of staff on site. In 2000 the pupil: teacher ratio in PRUs was 4.3 compared to 4.5 in 1999.

The money available from the Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Standards Fund Grant to help schools and local education authorities tackle poor behaviour and provide education outside school for those who have been excluded will increase tenfold from £17 million in 1996–97 to £174 million in 2001–02.

Copies of the guidance mentioned above, DfEE Circulars 10–99 (Chapter 7) and 11–99 (Chapters 4 and 5), are available in the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many young people(a) are receiving and (b) have received an education in a pupil referral unit in each of the last three years; [137081]

(2) how many pupil referral units there are in (a) England, (b) Nottingham and (c) Nottinghamshire. [137082]

Jacqui Smith

Provisional figures for 2000 show that there were 8,479 pupils registered at pupil referral units (PRUs). This compares with 7,530 in 1997, 7,740 in 1998 and 8,263 in 1999. This means an increase of nearly 1,000 places since 1997. In addition, the number of pupils dually registered at both school and PRU increased from 4,166 in 1998 to 4,586 in 2000.

Latest figures show that there are nearly 300 PRUs in England. Nottingham City LEA has two PRUs. Nottinghamshire LEA has four PRUs. A number of LEAs are amalgamating pupil referral units to bring them under one management structure in order to rationalise and improve provision. As indicated above, there has been an increase in the scale of provision for pupils at PRUs.

Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what criteria are used to evaluate the effectiveness of pupil referral units. [137079]

Jacqui Smith

OFSTED inspects pupil referral units (PRUs) using the framework of inspection for schools, adapted for PRUs. The inspection includes looking at quality of teaching; pupils' progress; management and value for money. Following an OFSTED inspection, the LEA must prepare a written action plan, in consultation with the management committee of the PRU and the teacher in charge. A recent OFSTED analysis of inspection reports from 38 inspections undertaken in 2000–01 highlights: improved teaching; improved pupil progress and achievement; better management; better value for money and some improved accommodation.