Private firms profiting from illegal alternative provision, Ofsted warns

Private firms profiting from illegal alternative provision, Ofsted warns

School leaders echo call for all alternative providers to be regulated

Private companies are profiting by offering illegal alternative provision that gives children “a very limited educational experience”, Ofsted has warned.

The inspectorate makes the claim in written evidence to an inquiry by the Commons Education Select Committee into alternative provision.

MPs are looking at settings such as pupil referral units, which educate young people who do not attend mainstream school for reasons such as school exclusion, behaviour issues, school refusal, or short- or long-term illness.

In its written evidence, Ofsted warns about alternative providers that offer full-time provision, but are not registered, as is legally required.

It says: “For instance, inspectors have found alternative provision settings that have more than one site, operating on different days of the week, with the same pupils attending these sites.

“As a result, they have little or no contact with their own school and a very limited educational experience. Moreover, the companies concerned profit from this.”

It says that, in all such cases, Ofsted issues a warning notice to stop the provider operating unlawfully without delay.

Ofsted’s ‘grave concern’

The inspectorate also reiterates its “grave concern” that alternative education providers do not have to register unless they are providing full-time education – an issue chief inspector Amanda Spielman raised with the committee last year.

In its submission, it says: “The lack of regulation for unregistered providers, continues to be a cause of grave concern for Ofsted.

“A pupil can attend an unregistered, therefore unregulated, provider for four days a week and his school for the other day – and this is lawful. Equally, a pupil can spend his whole education in unregistered provision – for example, two days in one and three in another – and this is also lawful.”

In its written evidence, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), echoes calls for all alternative providers to be regulated.

It says: “It is ASCL’s view that all alternative providers should be regulated, in order to provide safeguarding for all children and young people. This does, however, bring about a risk that some organisations will not want to go through what they would see as a bureaucratic exercise and some valuable provision would be lost.”

ASCL also warns that pressures on school budgets are reducing the ability of mainstream schools to provide alternative provision themselves.

It says: “Due to budget constraints mainstream schools are having to close or reduce the scope of in-school units and limit intervention strategies, causing a rise in placements with alternative providers.”