The Grove Academy in Harrogate, the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) , are continuing their campaign to maintain services for young people.
This week they will take their voice to Northallerton to speak in front of the North Yorkshire County Council Executive, will be supporting a judicial review of special education needs funding in the High Court in London, talking to the local MP’s and continuing strike action outside their Grove Road School.
The school say that given the current budget cuts and future planned cuts, they can not remain open. NYCC have said that their budget from central government has been slashed so they need to reduce funding to the Grove Academy.
What is a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) ?
- A PRU is a specialist school to help children that are not flourishing in mainstream schools. They are not supposed to be a new permanent school for a child; they are a stepping stone, sometimes back to the school they came from or to somewhere more suitable for their needs.
- All students in PRUs have social and emotional problems, most have special needs and many have mental health problems. Often these needs are undiagnosed.
- Schools use a referral as an early intervention to help a child at a younger age when it can be more beneficial – left later it can often then involve other agencies, such as the police and have far more serious problems that they need help with.
What does a PRU aim to do for the children when they are with them ?
- Firstly they aim to help them re-engage with education/ improve their attendance. They then seek to look at what they need, what their problems and how they can best be helped.
- The PRU acts as a diagnostic centre to identify each student’s needs and also helps to co-ordinate support services to keep children safe.
What’s working well with the PRU ?
- The school is well regarded by Ofsted, receiving ‘Outstanding in the last three inspections, and has a dedicated team of staff.
- They are well regarded by secondary school teachers, parents and the children themselves.
What’s not working so well with the PRU ?
- Children are staying in the PRU too long – the unit has problems with moving the children back to mainstream schools or on to suitable alternatives.
- The PRU should be working as an intervention, having the children for months rather than years as they are in some cases.
- The alternatives could be a Special Educational Needs school (SEND) or a School Social Emotional and Mental Health provider (SEMH). Due to the problems with moving children to somewhere more appropriate, the PRU has been forced to fulfill the function of a SEND/ SEMH school, which is significantly more expensive.
What does NYCC as Education Authority want to do with the PRU ?
- A national survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that there is a £536m funding gap for 2018/19 due to a growing demand for Send services.
- That is a shortfall of more than double 2017/18
- This means that NYCC are no longer being given sufficient budget to fund special educational needs sufficiently and say they need to make cuts.
Can each school not just provide its own PRU ?
- The children need a new environment and a new approach. In previous times many schools had a classroom for “naughty” children or even a portacabin at the end of the playground. Sad times for the children often just parked in there.
- There was a move some time ago to not simply side-line, but work with these young people – that means help them live a fuller life. There is real concern that the NYCC are moving back towards keeping the children in mainstream and placing further financial pressures on those school with that approach. Headteachers are in opposition to this.
How are NYCC making changes ?
- A 23% funding cut took place in April 2019 with a further 42% in 2020.
- The changes have been voted through by majority-vote of County Councillors, notably Conservative councillors voting the changes through and other parties generally opposing.
What do these changes mean for the Grove Academy PRU ?
- They have said that they can not function on the current reduced budget and face closure.
- The reduced budget means providing just a bare-bones service – This will be inadequate and fail to meet the needs of such complex children.
What is happening from here ?
- NYCC have said that they will provide detail on what a PRU alternate provision would look like – that has yet to be published. Staff at the school have been working with unions and are part-way through a month of periods of strike action.
- On Tuesday, 25 June 2019, staff will be in Northallerton. There will be a peaceful demonstration march and they will be making representation to the NYCC Executive Committee with a number of statements. They will be appealing for a last minute reprieve.
- On Wednesday the ‘SEND Action’ judicial review into national SEND funding will begin. Four campaigners from Harrogate will be at the High Court in London to show support. There will also be pickets in Harrogate at the school and stalls in Harrogate and Boroughbridge collecting petition signatures to local MPs.
- On Thursday they are looking to further engage with local MP’s Andrew Jones and Julian Smith and are seeking a meeting with them.