Ofsted Thematic Inspection – Alternative Provision (February 2024)


What is Alternative Provision?

There is a ‘duty to provide alternative education as outlined below.

‘If your child is of compulsory school age but is not receiving education because:

  • illness is preventing them from being able to attend school
  • they have been permanently excluded from school, or
  • for any other reason,

then under section 19 of the Education Act 1996, your local authority (LA) has a legal duty to secure suitable, full-time alternative education for them.’

IPSEA https://www.ipsea.org.uk/getting-temporary-education-put-in-place

The aim of such placements are to ensure that children and young people are able to access an education offer that is suitable for their needs and where possible are integrated back into the core education system.

Alternative Provision should ensure that all children and young people should have access to safe, high-quality education, however recently the quality of the Alternative Provision sector has come under the spotlight with concerns that there is too often a lack of oversight and a lack of consistency in quality outcomes being achieved for young people through Alternative Provision placements. There is no requirement for Alternative Provisions to be registered settings and so as such they are not routinely inspected.

Ofsted recently carried out a thematic inspection of Alternative Provision(AP) to gain a better understanding of this provision. They carried out visits to 6 local areas with the aim of:

  • finding out the extent to which AP arrangements are meeting the health, care and/or educational needs of children and young people
  • better understanding the purposes for which AP is used.
  • identifying the enablers and barriers to local area partners working together to commission and oversee AP placements.
  • highlighting good practice in commissioning and oversight arrangements for AP

There findings are summarised below;

Key Issues are:

  • There is a mix of registered and unregistered provision, with multiple routes into AP and variable oversight and monitoring.
  • There is a lack of national standards for AP.
  • There is a lack of clarity about the role of AP resulting in placements with poorly defined outcomes and no exit strategies.
  • Monitoring if happening tends to focus on safeguarding and attendance, with little regard to the quality of outcomes, breadth of the curriculum or accreditation available.
  • Too many individual children with multiple placements breakdowns or placed in different AP’s with little or no attendance at their home school.
  • Too frequently AP is an destination or a ‘stopgap’ waiting for a placement in a specialist provision.

When working well……

  • AP provides timely targeted interventions for vulnerable children and young people, working in partnership with specialists to support reintegration back into the core education system.
  • AP provides outreach support and professional development for local schools and workshops for parent carers, working closely with social care and health teams.
  • Block commissioning AP can help providers plan long term and retain staff but it is recognised that this can reduce choice for parent carers.
  • School leaders are part of the Local Authority strategic planning of AP.
  • A multi-agency approach is taken to decision making, recognising all the needs of the young person, especially mental health needs.
  • A commissioned place has clear intended outcomes with an explicit exit strategy.
  • AP include the delivery of a core curriculum, taught by qualified teachers.

The full thematic report on Alternative Provision can be read here

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