Staff at Grove Academy take action to protect the most vulnerable students in North Yorkshire


Staff at the Grove Academy took their first strike action on 13 June 2019 and say it will extend throughout June.

Teachers and support staff have taken the action against budget cuts and a possible closure of the unit. North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) say that they are looking at alternative provision for the area.

  • North Yorkshire County Council are to cut funding to PRUs by £2 million this year -driven by National Government continued and increasing under funding of all Local Authorities,
  • The Grove Academy faces closure by Christmas 2019 if nothing changes
  • Cuts within North Yorkshire will mean a reduced service for all Pupil Referral units (PRU) in the county
  • It is predicted that most vulnerable will suffer and jobs will  be lost
  • All of North Yorkshire’s PRUs are currently judged Good or Outstanding by OFSTED
  • NYCC say they have not been notified formally of closure intentions from December 2019 and are in active discussion with the Chief Officer from Delta and the RSC to explore a range of options to secure the future of an alternative provision model serving the Harrogate area
  • NYCC say they are looking at new alternative provision models
  • NYCC say future will be £18,000 a year from the local authority per place – in line with national average – together with a small contribution from schools

Members of the NASUWT, NEU, and UNISON at the Grove Academy in Harrogate say they are standing up for the future of the Pupil Referral Service in North Yorkshire and that the service is vital given a national crisis in adolescent mental health deepens.  and concerns about knife crime and so called ‘County Lines’ drug gangs hits the headlines, North Yorkshire County Council are forced to massively reduce funding to the PRU ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ services which are making a vital intervention for vulnerable young people.

As a result of this cut in funding the Grove Academy is now facing closure by Christmas. Closure, unless all parties come together and support an alternative plan. North Yorkshire County Council must support the PRU in the interim, until July, until other arrangements can be put in place, or all the expertise and facilities will be lost.

Staff at the at The Grove have voted to take strike action after an exhaustive campaign to persuade the council to reconsider cuts that will result in closures and cuts to service across the county and press National Government urgently to reverse their negative funding. In 2018 North Yorkshire PRUs lost around 25% of their total budget; next year they will lose a further 25 to 40%.

Pupil Referral Units educate some of the most ‘at risk’ children in the country. Their purpose is to provide a temporary placement for children who have been permanently excluded or are at risk of exclusion. The cost of neglecting these students was highlighted by Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman

Alex Boyce, NEU Representative and a teacher at the Grove Academy in Harrogate believes that the Pupil Referral Service is a vital part of the answer:

When funded sufficiently and run correctly PRUs provide a one-stop-shop for intervention which mainstream schools value greatly.

The Grove is one of few PRUs in the country to be judged Outstanding by OFSTED in the last three inspections.

Without the Grove, schools will struggle to intervene and support those young people who are most in danger of falling out of education and into ill health, or even criminality.

Mark Harrison, Regional Officer for UNISON stated:

As the Tory Central Government are preaching that austerity is over then they need to back their words with money to save this vital local service.

Tim Toepritz, National Executive for the NASUWT in the area stated:

These cuts will harm the most vulnerable young people in the area. This provision helps potential ‘lost souls’ back into society. They will become marginalised and that will have a serious impact upon the local community. Caring staff, needed by North Yorkshire, will also face the prospect of unemployment.

Local MP, Andrew Jones (Con), is on record as saying that, “…….parental choice should be central to any successful education system.

We say that the parents of pupils at the Grove choose the Grove, but Tory funding cuts close it. Where’s the choice Andrew?

Jane le Sage, Assistant Director of Inclusion for Children and Young People’s Services said:

We recognise the negative impact of exclusion on educational attainment, life chances and increased vulnerability of young people.

We remain committed to reducing the numbers of permanent exclusions across the county by ensuring schools have access to high quality, alternative provision for young people, who will benefit from a more personalised curriculum and higher levels of support.

Over the past several months we have been working successfully with secondary and Pupil Referral Unit Headteachers to finalise new models of alternative provision from September 2020. We do not anticipate the closure of any of the four other maintained Pupil Referral Services in North Yorkshire and, indeed, they remain at the centre of our vision to reduce exclusions but with a focus on early intervention to support children and young people.

We will be recommending that the new alternative provision models are based on funding of £18,000 a year from the local authority per place – in line with national average – together with a small contribution from schools.

This will be sufficient to provide a strong curriculum, together with work-related opportunities, vocational provision and an enhanced therapeutic offer, hopefully supported by the significant financial reserves in a number of Pupil Referral Units.

The decision regarding the future of the Grove lies with Delta Multi Academy Trust and the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) with the final decision taken by Ministers.

We have not been notified formally of closure intentions from December 2019 and are in active discussion with the Chief Officer from Delta and the RSC to explore a range of options to secure the future of an alternative provision model serving the Harrogate area.

We are disappointed we have not made progress in developing the new Alternative Education model in Harrogate under the new funding arrangements and would strongly urge the school and Pupil Referral Service leaders to work with us to finalise arrangements for future provision.

We understand that our decision to reduce the funding allocation to Pupil Referral Services has not been popular, but historically these providers have been very generously funded with place costs being higher than other specialist schools in the county.

However, pressures on the high needs block funding for children and young people with SEND means that we are unable to continue to fund over and above the national average and remain confident that the new alternative provision models will provide cost efficiency and continue to provide high quality provision and support for young people.

The Grove is part of the Delta Academies Trust said:

North Yorkshire County Council confirmed at a meeting with Delta Academies Trust its intention to move to a different model for the Pupil Referral Service.

This was ratified by full Council.

The implications for The Grove Pupil Referral Unit will see a reduction in funding of approximately 65%.  There has been a public campaign led by parents and some members of staff opposing the restructure of the PRS and this has been well publicised.

The Grove Academy is a Pupil Referral Unit and provides education for the most challenging and high needs students which is more expensive than alternative provision because of the increased staffing ratios required.  Benchmarking figures show that The Grove Academy cost per pupil is broadly in line with other PRUs nationally.

The Grove and its staff provide an outstanding education and this has been confirmed by three separate OFSTED judgements.

Delta Academies Trust does not know the detail of the new service proposed by the County Council and so are unable to make any further meaningful comment at this time.  The only concrete  information we have relates to the funding  and commissioning of places at The Grove and the confirmation of the reductions.  Given the magnitude of these, it is difficult to see how the provision in its current form could continue.

Delta Academies Trust is committed to working closely with parents, the County Council and the RSC’s office to ensure that the changes to the Pupil Referral Service, implemented by the Local Authority, are successful and do not impact negatively on students and vulnerable children in the short term.

We are keen to understand the detail of the service moving forward in order to evaluate our future role and the implications for pupils and staff.

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