PRU Positive

This week I want to talk about PRUs – having just read an interesting post (special needs jungle) by David Mills, Executive Principal of the Phoenix and Seven Hills Academies. Mr Mills is right to suggest that Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) have a negative connotation that is often far from the positive experiences of many pupils who attend them. Why the negative connotation? Perhaps because the pupils and students who are (as a last resort) referred to PRUs are those that mainstream schools cannot cope with.

Again, we should question – why? Before the integration of children from special schools into mainstream, PRUs were not needed. Disruptive children were (too often) wrongly placed in special schools that were not designed to cater for those with average or above intelligence. Since integration, PRUs play a valuable role in catering for those children whose needs do not merit special school education – but who nevertheless need a planned fall-back facility.

PRUs deal with significant and disruptive pupil behaviour, offering troubled (and often troublesome) children in Key Stages 2 and 3 what many mainstream schools cannot – namely, smaller class sizes and pastoral support. Mr Mills goes on to say that three quarters of funding is spent on staffing, with a further significant amount on the other professionals upon whom some children with SEMH or other forms of SEND rely – for example, the Educational Psychologist, or Speech and Language Therapist.

Having been involved with PRUs, it is important to remember that such places are not always the end of the educational road. For many pupils PRUs are a necessary stop along the way. They therefore have a constantly changing population of pupils who need to revisit their approach to learning and their behavioural responses.

It is important for parents also to have a positive view if their child ends up being educated for a time in a PRU. Parental collaboration is crucial in any educational establishment – even more so for pupils in a PRU. Why? Because changing any pupil’s behaviour requires a strongly co-ordinated effort between school and home. It is no use identifying targets for a pupil to achieve unless these are firmly backed up at home.

For some pupils poor behaviour may be a consequence rather than a cause of their difficulties. If a child has a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND) that is not being addressed properly – frustration often generates disruptive behaviour. This latter point is a sound reason why all parents need to know what is being additionally provided for their child with SEND. My first book in the Parents: Help Your Child Succeed series informs parents about the revised SEND System in English schools.

My Key Stage books inform parents about the National Curriculum for each year. Finding out WHAT children learn and HOW is the first stage towards helping to keep any child on track with learning and behaviour in school. Supporting Children at the various Key Stages by Sylvia Edwards are available from Lulu in printed form, and from Amazon, in printed form and as ebooks.

PRUs play a valuable, key role in balancing out pupils’ educational experiences, thus enabling most children with behavioural difficulties to succeed in mainstream schools.

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