Excluded children at risk of being ‘preyed upon’, says Ofsted Chief

Amanda Spielman says low attendance creates risk of gangs exploiting vulnerable children in Pupil Referral Units and alternative providers.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has spoken out about low attendance in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and the risk this creates for vulnerable young people ahead of the release of its annual report on Tuesday.

Ofsted’s analysis is reported to show persistent absent rates for PRUs and alternative providers almost four times higher than mainstream provision, causing concerns as evidence mounts that vulnerable children are being targeted by ‘county lines’ gangs.

Speaking to the Observer, Spielman said: “Exclusion does not have to leave a young life on the scrapheap.

“High quality AP and PRUs can and do turn young lives around. But they cannot do what they do best if children aren’t in class. It is a sad fact that these children are often preyed upon. Getting children engaged and into the classroom is so important – for their safety and to help them make the right life choices.”

Ms. Spielman added, however, that the reality of referral units and alternative providers was often very different to the common perception that the institutions were ‘steering children towards gangs and exploitation,’ noting that more than 80 per cent of registered state-funded providers were rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.

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