MORE disruptive pupils will be sent to alternative education centres during the recession, teachers have warned.
Teachers attending the National Union of Teachers conference in Cardiff have threatened industrial action against privatising so-called “sin bins” for unruly students.
Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) provide a valuable service to unruly youngsters, and privatisation will move them further away from mainstream education, the union said.
In Huddersfield the Ethos Pupil Referral Unit at Rawthorpe celebrated a successful visit by Ofsted inspectors and excellent GCSE results by several pupils this summer.
Around 80 students currently attend the unit including those classed as anxious non-attenders, pregnant schoolgirls, those who have been excluded, those with behavioural, emotional and social needs or those in hospital. Many have been out of an educational setting for many months and come to the unit with low academic starting points. Many have then made excellent progress.
As well as teaching at the Kess Centre, off Rawthorpe Terrace, staff also teach through a significant amount of outreach work via Digital Brain accessing students in their own homes, hospitals and libraries. This electronic work was particularly praised by Government inspectors who described it as “visionary.”
Rachel Lynch, a special educational needs teacher from Bristol said told the NUT conference yesterday: “Every child has a right to an education and pupil referral units offer a valuable service.”
Schools secretary Ed Balls announced details in October of 12 pilot schemes in which private companies will run units for excluded pupils as well as those at risk of exclusion.
They included a city farm, a football training centre and a scheme based on Army Cadet Force training.
Delegates at the Cardiff conference vowed to “defend PRUs vigorously from the threat of privatisation, balloting for industrial action across the sector if any PRU is so threatened.”
Teacher Andy Pryor said: “As we descend into the most recent economic downturn, the numbers of families coping with stresses and hardships will increase, so will the numbers of young people in crisis. This is likely to lead to an increase in referrals to pupil referral units.”
More than half (57%) of children referred to PRUs are denied access to a new school for longer than a term and 25% are denied access for more than two terms, the motion said.
Jerry Glazier of the NUT’s executive said: “We do not want, in any shape or form, privatisation, which will simply put up barriers.”