PRU crisis has online fix

Posted 31/10/2018

Oct 2018: The head of Apricot has called for Local Authorities, Headteachers and Councils to act quickly in addressing the lack of places in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) for excluded pupils.

Yale graduate and headteacher at Apricot Online, Amy Smith has reacted with shock and frustration to a report published by charity Barnado’s in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime which claims that 47 councils, about one in three in England, had no spaces in PRUs that look after excluded children.

“For a lot of special needs or behaviourally challenged youngsters, being excluded is just another rejection,” states Smith. “Is it any wonder that they often feel ‘being bad’ is something they can be good at? Unless you help them to see they have other things going for them, they will neither believe in themselves or their future.”

The Apricot MD argues that the PRU crisis could be eased with modern technology and real-time online lessons with specialist teachers who are skilled at helping disengaged and special needs students.

“Synchronous online teaching is one solution that can address the problem of excluded students disengaging— not just with education, but with themselves and life in general. It’s a cost-effective fix too, as LAs have no transportation costs to cover and reduced overheads for buildings and physical spaces,” she continues. “Badly behaved students have no audience and so immediately you’re removing the gratification of showing-off in front of peers.

“We’ve had great success with disruptive and challenged students; they’re often real characters, very intelligent and responsive to student-led learning. When we tell a student we’re proud of them, it can be the first time anyone has said that to them in their life.

“I’m not simply banging my own school’s drum, just shocked that synchronous online learning isn’t considered a remedy or even by more councils. It’s a simple solution; not one for all of a youngster’s needs beyond education and life skills, but it can offer them a way back into learning and having a future which isn’t behind bars.”