Local authorities are responsible for arranging suitable full-time education for permanently excluded pupils, and for other pupils who – because of illness or other reasons – would not receive suitable education without such provision.
Full time provision must be made unless the pupil’s health (mental or physical) means that full-time education would not be in his or her best interests. This applies to all children of compulsory school age resident in the local authority area, whether or not they are on the roll of a school, and whatever type of school they attend. Full-time education for excluded pupils must begin no later than the sixth day of the exclusion. (Section 19 of the Education Act 1996, as amended by section 3 of the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010)
What is a PRU?
Any school that is established and maintained by a local authority to enable it to discharge the above duty is known as a pupil referral unit (PRU). There is no requirement on local authorities to have or to establish a pupil referral unit, and they may discharge their duties by other means. However, only a local authority can establish a pupil referral unit. Others can establish Alternative Provision Academies or AP Free Schools.
What is AP?
Provision in PRUs is defined as Alternative Provision (AP). However AP also encompasses education arranged by schools for pupils from the sixth day of a fixed term exclusion and pupils being directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour. In Dorset PRUs are known as Learning Centres. The Local Authority (LA) has established 5 learning centres so that it can make suitable provision for children and young people described in Section 19 of the Education Act 1996. Places are commissioned in the five Dorset Learning Centres to enable the LA to fulfil this function.
In addition Dorset Learning Centres are able to receive pupils who are at risk of exclusion and for whom the school wishes to make off-site provision. Such pupils are dual registered and may receive a substantial part of their provision in school. The Local Authority is required to set an overall policy for admission to its alternative provision, based on clear criteria for requesting involvement and admitting pupils, including those who are dual registered. For the purpose of the school census a pupil should be dual main registered at their school and dual subsidiary registered at the alternative provision.