The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) is an integral part of the behaviour and learning support services. It serves a wide variety of students' needs across four different provisions and locations. Many students present complex emotional, behavioural and social difficulties and may have been excluded from school, or be at risk of being excluded. Other students have mental health difficulties or maybe particularly vulnerable and have a history of offending. Students admitted to hospital are also taught and supported as are a number who are on home tuition. A small number of students have statements of special educational needs for their difficulties. On entry attainment is often below average, usually due to absence from school and the various barriers to their learning. Just over a half of students come from minority ethnic backgrounds, the largest being from Asian or Black African and Caribbean families. There are just over twice as many boys as girls. There is a clear focus to return students to their mainstream school wherever possible. Currently there is an acting headteacher in post.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good PRU and there are a number of outstanding features that ensure that most students achieve as well as they can. The acting headteacher works effectively with the manager of the behaviour support service and has a clear vision for improvement, built upon well-established processes of consultation and self-evaluation. Together with a committed leadership team and hard working staff, they ensure there is a clear direction leading to improvement and the promotion of high quality care and education across all the different provisions. Parents and carers greatly appreciate the progress their children make and the care and support that they and their children receive. One parent said of the home tuition service, 'Thank you for the great support you have given our son, he is doing really well'. Another parent said of the education service in the hospital, 'I think the service is excellent and makes children forget they are sick and in hospital'. Outstanding partnerships with schools and support agencies ensure students receive appropriate support and care for their needs. Parent links and support are excellent and they are encouraged to get involved in their children's education. The parent's association (PA) is effectively used for consultation and a parent remarked, 'I think the PA is good. Staff are excellent. I feel encouraged when I attend meetings and get good advice and information. I feel more involved in my daughter's education'.
Overall, standards are average or just below. Given their starting points on entry the achievement and progress of most students is good or better. This results in a boost of confidence and self-worth and an increasingly positive attitude towards learning and making forward plans. Many students successfully reintegrate back into school and others who stay on achieve GCSE qualifications in line with their peers. A small number of students whose attendance is erratic, or poor for whatever reason, obviously do not achieve as well as their better attending peers. Some students make good, sometimes excellent improvements with their attendance when considering their previous record. An initial assessment of students' needs on entry, based upon previous attainment data (where possible) and the PRU's own assessment, forms the basis for individual target setting. Academic and personal development targets are set and regularly reviewed with the students, and most are met successfully. This is because strategies for success are discussed and consistently supported. Students' good achievement is the result of excellent relationships, the relevant curriculum, good teaching and the good care, guidance and support they receive for their individual needs. Although teaching and support are good overall, there is some outstanding practice that is not being shared as widely or as effectively as it might, particularly in the areas of pupil assessment and planning.
Students' personal development and well-being are good overall. Attitudes are generally good and improve as students begin to realise that the staff have their best interests at heart. Students are aware of the importance of keeping safe and leading a healthy lifestyle. They show respect for one another and generally get on well together. The tracking of students' progress is developing well and students confirm they are clear about what they have to do to improve their work and personal development. The PRU is aware of the need to analyse more carefully the data they record on students' progress as, presently, it is not being effectively used in planning and improving students' achievement. There is a very positive and rewarding climate for learning where students can thrive and make good progress. There has been good progress since the last inspection. Self-evaluation processes are effective in identifying areas for improvement and developments are clearly linked to student achievement. The steering group effectively fulfils its support and monitoring role and takes a full part in the strategic management of the PRU. Overall, leadership and management are having a positive impact on learning, enabling students to make good progress and a successful transition into their next stage of learning. The capacity to improve further is good.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve students' attendance.
- Ensure information on student's progress is effectively analysed and used to promote progression in their learning and to raise standards.
- Ensure the very best practice in teaching and learning is consistently applied across the different provisions.
Achievement and standards
Standards are generally average to below. This is a result of a number of factors, including, non-attendance, poor attitudes to learning and the behavioural, social, medical and learning difficulties that may have previously arisen. Considering these difficulties, the progress made by most students is good. Importantly, their attitudes to learning improve as they begin to realise they can achieve, and their efforts are appreciated and rewarded. Reintegration rates are good and carefully planned. Coordinated support and encouragement enables most students to positively re-engage with learning and achieve success. Most of the older students make a successful transfer into further education. Challenging targets supported by strategies and guidance are successfully achieved by most students although those whose attendance is poor make less progress. Assessment and progress tracking systems are developing well, although information on students' progress is not analysed sufficiently or used consistently by teachers to further support students' progress and achievement.
Personal development and well-being
The personal development and well-being of students are good overall. Students say they feel safe and secure and enjoy most of their learning. As one student put it, 'The small groups make it easier to get on and concentrate on your work'. Students appreciate the encouragement and support they receive that helps them to improve their attitudes and reach their personal targets. Students are confident they can talk to an adult if they have any concerns and say they are treated with respect. A small number of students have poor attendance, which affects their overall progress. A number of students show a significant improvement in their attendance from pre-admission figures, and they invariably make good academic and personal progress as a result. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good as a result of the relevant curriculum, tutor times and everyday social interactions between students and adults. Behaviour is generally good. Students learn to take responsibility for their own behaviour and begin to appreciate the high standards expected of them. There is an excellent sense of community across all the provisions and students voice their opinions with confidence and learn to understand each other's difficulties. Students take part in fund raising and enterprise projects and join a variety of local community and school events. Students take part in work related activities where they gain confidence and acquire essential skills that support their return to school, further study, and future employment. This is as a result of very carefully and effectively planned provision.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good overall enabling students to make good progress. Student behaviour is managed well with clear expectations, enabling positive learning to take place. Teaching groups are small and the excellent relationships and support for individual needs ensures students get the best out of their learning and make good progress towards their individual targets. Regular monitoring has clearly identified where the very best practice is to be found, although it is not yet being shared most effectively across the PRU to ensure a more helpful consistency in approach. Ongoing feedback, encouragement and support ensure students are clear about how they might improve their work in lessons, although National Curriculum levels are not consistently referred to and so guidance over time is less clear. Teachers, learning support assistants and learning mentors work very effectively as a team ensuring activities promote interest and enjoyment, and that effort and achievement are rewarded at every opportunity. Parents particularly appreciate the work of home tutors and the teaching in hospital.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum across all the provisions is good and is constantly under review. The PRU tries to ensure it comes as close as possible to meeting the diverse needs of the current students. It aims to support students' return to school whenever possible and in this respect it is often successful. Students can study for a range of examinations and accredited awards and the PRU is looking to develop the practical and vocational side of learning opportunities. In addition to the core subjects, a wide range of creative and physical activities effectively motivates most students. Students said they appreciated the opportunity to 'catch up' in their chosen studies so as not to be at a disadvantage when they return to school or when preparing for sitting examinations. Personal, social, health and citizenship education and work-related learning fully support students' personal development, particularly in their understanding of the world around them and their awareness of a healthy lifestyle. Learning is very well supported and enhanced by a range of outside providers and visits into the community. The PRU very effectively uses its links with schools and colleges to help develop and deliver learning activities.
Care, guidance and support
The care, guidance and support of students are good. Staff in all provisions clearly show that they have the best interests of the students at heart. A parent wrote, 'Staff are very friendly and they listen to any concerns or worries we may have making the problem lighter'. There are effective procedures for safeguarding students, which are understood by all staff. Health and safety procedures are monitored and reviewed and supported by appropriate staff training. All provisions very effectively work with external support agencies to ensure that there is a coordinated approach to supporting students' needs. Communication between the PRU and home is excellent and parents greatly appreciate the advice and support they receive. A parent said, 'I feel my ideas and concerns are listened to and acted upon. The information and advice on how to help my son study for his exams was very helpful'. Although students are told how to improve their work in lessons, it is not consistently made clear to them what they specifically have to do to achieve a higher National Curriculum level over time. There are however, regular opportunities for students to set and review their academic and personal development targets.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. The acting headteacher and senior staff ensure the day-to-day organisation effectively supports the good quality care and education for all students. Staff roles and responsibilities are clear, their work is valued and consequently morale is high across all the provisions. Staff briefings and de-briefings at the start and end of each day ensure there is clear communication and a consistent understanding of what needs to be done. The impact of everyone's work is clearly seen in the good care, guidance and support for students, which in turn leads to their good personal development and academic progress. Home tutoring is efficiently coordinated to ensure students' needs are well met. Likewise the support for children in hospital is meeting an essential need that aids their medical recovery. Students with mental health needs benefit from excellent accommodation, resources and an effectively coordinated multi-agency approach to supporting their needs. The partnership with secondary schools is excellent, and mainstream headteachers and staff appreciate the support and preparation which accompany the point of referral and reintegration. The PRU has had, and is appreciating, support and guidance from external consultants such as the school improvement partner (SIP) and national strategy consultants. Recorded data and student progress information needs to be analysed more rigorously, and used consistently in supporting improved student achievement.