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Alternative provision placements soar to pre-pandemic levels

The number of pupils in alternative provision has soared by 20 per cent in a year, taking numbers back to pre-Covid levels.

As well as a rise in placements following exclusions, government statistics show increases in the numbers of pupils placed in AP because of a mental health need or in off-site placements for behavioural support.

It comes after government data showed last year how exclusion rates have risen back to pre-pandemic levels, with the number of suspensions soaring again.

Statistics published this week show there were 15,866 pupils in state-funded AP in January 2024 up 20 per cent from 13,191 the year before. Over the same period, the total school pupil population nationally increased by 0.2 per cent.

Numbers in AP had dipped from 15,396 in 2020 to 12,785 in 2021 and 11,684 in 2022, before starting to rise again.

Of all the council placements in AP as of January this year, 80.9 per cent were because the setting was named on a pupil’s education, health and care plan, down from 83.4 per cent last year.

There was a slight increase in the proportion resulting from permanent exclusion – 2.8 to 3.7 per cent – and those resulting for other reasons, including pregnancy or childcare, up from 9.9 to 11.5 per cent.

The data also shows the number of children eligible for means-tested free school meals rose by 75,000 between January 2023 and January 2024, taking the total number eligible to about 2.1 million, 24.6 per cent of the total school population.

The number of pupils in primary schools fell by 0.7 per cent while the secondary population rose by 1.1 per cent. The number in state special schools rose 5 per cent.

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