Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the number of educational institutions operating outside the regulatory regime as unregistered independent schools. Unregistered providers can put children at greater risk by denying them an appropriate education and seriously limiting their life chances. As Managing Director of an Independent Alternative Provision (AP), I am passionate about tackling unregistered providers and supporting every young person to access a high-quality and safe environment for them to learn and flourish.
In 2018, the Department for Education published a report that outlined what measures were in place to help tackle the number of unregistered providers operating. Through a collaboration with Ofsted, the DfE established a team of inspectors to identify and investigate potential unregistered providers. Despite the interventions made, there are still many unregistered providers operating today.
A report published by Ofsted identified around 6,000 children who were attending an unregistered provision in 2019. Typically, the children who attend and alternative provision account for some of the most vulnerable young people in society. The lack of regulation and quality monitoring in unregistered providers threatens to harm the life trajectories of the young people who access them. Unregistered providers are not subject to an inspection of safeguarding or quality of education, making it impossible for us to understand what measures are in place to support children.
Research published by Barnardo’s, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Knife Crime and Redthread, suggests that children who get excluded from school are at serious risk of involvement in knife crime and youth violence. They are also more vulnerable to exploitation and grooming by criminal gangs. The research highlights the lack of provision for excluded pupils as a contributing factor to why children fall through the net and become caught-up in violence and criminal exploitation.
I am calling on the Government to tighten its definition of what constitutes a school. The Government should introduce a legal requirement for any school teaching children for more than eight hours per week to register and be subject to an Ofsted inspection. Where providers refuse to register, powers should be available to close those institutions. When it comes to the education of our young people, we must not take risks or shortcuts. I am also encouraging Local Authorities to commission more free alternative provision schools. In certain areas, there is a limited number of free places for alternative provisions. When choices are limited, pupils get funnelled into unregistered providers.
There is evidence that when providers are regulated correctly, there is a positive impact on a child’s life. The Government, Local Authorities, Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted, should all work together to ensure that every pupil who gets excluded from mainstream education receives the support they deserve. Tackling unregistered providers requires a collaborative effort for positive changes to come to fruition. Together we can work as a collective to provide young people with high-quality alternative provisions that support them to achieve.
At Progress Schools, we are committed to supporting the potential to achieve. Through our innovative and creative approach to teaching, we have created a nurturing learning environment for our young people to thrive. By incorporating a number of different techniques and approaches to teaching, we are enabling our students to develop academically, emotionally, and mentally.
I have seen first-hand how an effective and properly regulated alternative provision can help young people progress and secure a better future. With that in mind, I am urging everyone to work together to ensure this level of alternative education is for all young people, and not just a few. Notes to editors:
- Unregistered independent schools and out of school settings- Advice (publishing.service.gov.uk)
- Ofsted needs help investigating illegal schools | Tes News