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Let disrupted AP pupils repeat year 11, says de Souza

The government should fund pupils who arrive in alternative provision (AP) late or face disruption to their GCSEs to repeat year 11, the children’s commissioner has said.

Dame Rachel de Souza also said funding should be provided to offer a “graduated stepdown programme of support for all year 11 leavers”, amid concerns AP schools lack the resources to support the transition into post-16 education.

Polling of young people by Opinium for de Souza’s office found children attending AP were far less likely to say they were confident they would get the education they wanted (53 per cent) than all children (74 per cent).

There was a similar gap when asked whether they would learn the skills needed for a good job (52 per cent vs 72 per cent) and whether they thought they would have a job they were happy with (50 per cent vs 67 per cent).

AP leaders said they “needed to support AP leavers for a period after they left school, to ensure that they sustained a positive destination”, but this support was “difficult to provide”.

Settings “are only funded for the children on roll, and often do not have the capacity to provide additional support to previous Year 11s”, the report warned.

In response, the government should fund alternative providers to “offer a graduated stepdown programme of support for all year 11 leavers and, where necessary, provide an opportunity to resit the final year of AP for some learners who have had a disrupted key stage 4”.

As part of its AP funding review, DfE should look at how it can provide “ring-fenced funding for the work AP schools do to support their children to transition to positive post-16 destinations”.

Pay for careers, work experience and ‘extended support programme’

The review “should look at how to create a limited number of post-16 placements for children who have had a disrupted key stage 4, who have entered AP very late in year 11 or who have been unable to access education during their exam years.”

These placements “should enable children to resit their final year in alternative provision and to study the qualifications they need for post-16 pathways”.

The review should also look at how to finance careers advisors, work experience, and an “extended support programme for all children transitioning from AP to a post-16 destination”.

Ministers should also review accountability measures, to “ensure they capture the extent to which AP leavers secure and sustain positive post-16 destinations”.

de Souza said her research showed children in AP were “deeply ambitious and see getting a good job or career as a priority”.

“However, often they are not given the support they need to succeed… These children are every bit as ambitious as other children. It is up to us as adults to match that ambition.”

A damning Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report in February found AP was in “desperate need of reform” amid “systemic issues” that lead to “inconsistent outcomes”.

de Souza’s report also called on the DfE to develop an AP workforce strategy and train AP teachers to become PSHE specialists. The AP taskforce programme, which provides wraparound support for children in AP in 21 areas, should be rolled out nationally.

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