First, some things we are not! Northumberland Pupil Referral Unit is not an alternative to school; it is not a way for schools to get rid of ‘difficult’ pupils and it is certainly not a punishment for bad behaviour. The PRU is there to help children to find a way back into long-term education. The PRU also helps schools to support children when they return.
All the children who come to the PRU have experienced problems caused by their behaviour at school. These problems have probably affected their learning and their ability to get the most out of school, and have often caused difficulties with other children. In many cases, schools have used up all the options and may be considering permanent exclusion as a last resort. Some of our pupils have already been permanently excluded from a school when they arrive.
The PRU offers children a chance to change. We don’t believe that any child really chooses to be constantly in trouble at school, and take this as a starting-point. While we don’t tolerate any kind of violence or bullying, we understand that that many children deal with problems by ‘acting out’. A child may find it better to disturb lessons by constant low-level disruption than to show himself up by not being able to do the work in lessons, for example. Of course, schools are aware of this too and often put a great deal of effort and ingenuity into supporting children with behaviour problems. However, they don’t have the time or scope to work as flexibly or intensively as the PRU can.
We start by asking schools to describe what the main problems are, and what needs to change to make things better. Then we use the information to set targets for improvement, which we share and discuss with the child from the beginning of the placement. We use these targets right throughout the placement, and try out different methods to help to achieve them. The targets are especially important at the meetings we hold to review the situation and to decide whether the child is ready to go back into school.
There is no magic formula, but we observe each pupil in lessons and during non-teaching times, trying to see things from his or her point of view. We are trying to understand why certain behaviour happens, the times when it is likely to happen and what can be done to make things better. We share our ideas with pupils, parents and school, and try to make them a key part of what we do.
Some strategies work; some don’t. We keep records of what we do and what we observe and use the information to build up a profile of each child. We try to reward efforts made by the child to look at behaviour and to react in better ways. At the end of the placement we pass on all the information in the form of a report. This helps the school to support the child when he or she goes back to school to make a fresh start. In some cases, the information also helps the school to get extra help or resources.
Keyworkers maintain regular contact with parents/carers and any other outside agaencies involved to keep all parties fully informed about a child's progress.
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You can also use Parent View to find out what other parents and carers think about schools in England. You can visit www.parentview.ofsted.gov.uk or look for the link on the main Ofsted website: www.ofsted.gov.uk