Alternative Provision for Young People with Special Educational Needs

Kerry Martin, Richard White

30 May 2012

Executive Summary

In his review of alternative provision, the government's expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, acknowledged that 'the boundaries between alternative provision and SEN provision are blurred' (DfE 2012, p.5). This study, commissioned by the LGA, explores the ways in which young people with SEN access and engage in alternative provision in five local authority areas. The findings form part of the LGA's response to the government’s recent consultation on alternative provision reforms.

Key Findings

  • There is no obvious segregation between alternative providers that are commissioned to work with learners with SEN. However, there are situations when the conditions and difficulties presented by young people require differentiated provision. As the complexity of SEN increases, there are likely to be greater limitations on the choices of alternative provision that can be effectively accessed.
  • Alternative provision for young people with SEN is successful when it achieves a shared ethos to focus on the individual needs and interests of learners and their achievement of realistic and meaningful outcomes. This is underpinned by ensuring parity in the quality of provision available to those with SEN, compared to other groups of learners. Other effective characteristics relate to the ambience and environment of alternative provision, group size and composition, and high-quality staffing.
  • Personalised learning packages of provision are considered particularly effective and effective commissioning is central to this. There are, however, concerns about the fragmentation of roles and responsibilities for alternative provision between maintained schools, academies, PRUs and local authorities and the impact of such changes on the continuing function of local authorities in the co-ordination of alternative provision for young people with SEN.
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