With more funding devolved from budgets previously held centrally by Oxfordshire County Council, or because of school’s changing to academy status it is important that all professionals are clear where responsibilities lie when pupils are placed with providers of alternative education.
Providing pupils with personalised and appropriate experience can sometimes be difficult to organise within the school curriculum for a variety of reasons. This might be because there aren’t enough pupils to support a particular course, or isn’t sufficient teaching/ staff expertise available, or a different/smaller environment might help nurture learning opportunities. It is increasingly common for schools (individually or in various consortia) and other professionals to be commissioning alternatives to mainstream placements. It is important that these placements are not just engaging but provide real opportunities for success.
It is important that all professionals have an awareness of their responsibilities. OCC are promoting a framework of expectations for all involved in the provision, commissioning and monitoring of alternative education placements. Broadly these are:
- Providers of placements (if they aren’t a school or further education college)
- Schools and commissioners (such as SEN, LAC teams and groups such as In Year Fair Access Panels)
The Commissioner’s responsibilities
The primary responsibility for the safeguarding and quality of a young person’s education is the school or centre where the pupil is on roll. This is even the case if a pupil isn’t at the main centre for any of their education offer. Other organisations or agencies may commission educational experiences and whilst they may be important stakeholders, the key responsibility is with the establishment where the pupil is on roll. Not only do commissioners have professional responsibility for the quality of education and safety, increasingly OFSTED inspectors, (of schools and providers) will require proof of due diligence around the placement of pupils.
The Provider’s responsibilities
Any provider of alternative placements must have policies and systems that support a positive educational experience to pupils. Respite and empathy are not necessarily sufficient. A placement must show engagement with learning and demonstrate measurable progress to be considered successful.
The Approved Providers List
Oxfordshire County Council ‘Approved Provider List’ (APL) of organisations that provide educational placements helps commissioners have confidence that providers have demonstrated a basic minimum of policies and systems that should be expected to support placements. This is no guarantee of educational quality, but is a basis upon which a Commissioner could consider placements.
Requirements for inclusion on the APL are:
- Evidence of relevant experience
- Evidence of local capacity to deliver services
- Acceptable References
- Financial integrity
- Safeguarding arrangements which meet Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire’s Children’s Safeguarding Board standards
- Offering relevant services
- Appropriate record keeping
The APL does not guarantee business to any listed providers, and schools are not required to procure services only from the list. Schools and commissioners can engage any organisation to provide placements but it is their responsibility to ensure checks are in place.
If you would like to discuss issues relating to engaging with alternative providers you can contact the Alternative Provision Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01865 783 379.