Bristol City Council Blocks Alternative Provision Report

  • Bristol City Council blocks Alternative Provision Report despite promises to bring to Bristol Schools Forum
  • People Scrutiny Commission Chair vows to investigate
  • The independent report found 31 issues across AP to be addressed by council
  • Bristol AP has ‘extremely high numbers of SEND pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans and in the process of having EHC Plans in ALP’

A report into Alternative Provision (AP) commissioned by Bristol City Council, has been withheld from both People Scrutiny Commission and Bristol Schools Forum, despite promises that it would be made available at the end of March.

The report was first referred to by Director of Education, Alison Hurley, in papers ahead of a People Scrutiny Commission meeting on Monday 08 March 2021 – but the actual report was not made available. This raised public concern. At the time, the commission investigated the absence of the report and issued a statement ahead of the meeting addressing this.

It said: ‘The Alternative Learning Provision Independent Review, referred to in the scrutiny report, will be brought to the Bristol Schools Forum on the 30th March, published at the following link on the 23rd March: Bristol Schools Forum, 30th March 2021, 5pm – bristol.gov.uk.’

Screenshot of People Scrutiny statement

Alternative Learning Provision is education outside of school for pupils who have been excluded, at risk of exclusion or for whom mainstream education is not working. It has been heavily used in recent years for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) due to unlawfully long Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA) and a lack of places available at specialist schools.

The independent review delved into the city’s AP offer, which has become a murky world for pupils with Send and whose needs are not being met in mainstream education.

Hurley’s report to People Scrutiny states: ‘There are extremely high numbers of SEND pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans and in the process of having EHC Plans in ALP. High numbers of pupils going to ALP are then assessed with un-met needs, particularly Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH), Speech and Language and low literacy and maths skills.’

The independent report has identified 31 recommendations for improvement across the system, which the council has agreed with.

The full report was due to come to Bristol Schools Forum on Tuesday 30 March 2021. But, the report is now being withheld from this meeting.

Papers to Bristol Schools Forum state: ‘In developing our action plan in response to the ALP review , further consideration needs to be given to any areas which may result in changes to the provision of frontline services or funding and a period of coproduction and engagement with families, partners in the sector and through a Schools Forum sub-group is required before the plan can be presented to Schools Forum for endorsement. This approach will enable full consideration to be taken of all the potential implications, fulfil the requirements that are set out in the SEND WSoA and the 2018 Judicial Review from where this work derives.’

Included in the papers on the agenda for Bristol Schools Forum is Alison Hurley’s original report to People Scrutiny Commission, clearly showing the report was ready for use: ‘The full report and Action Plan will be presented to Schools Forum on 30th March 2021.’

Hurley verbally told People Scrutiny Commission at the meeting at the start of March: “So just really to start, I’m not going to spend too long on the introduction of this, but just really to reexplain why we’ve got a kind of scrutiny paper coming out before the actual review itself. So as you know, this was on the forward plan. So really, this paper is A, to give you the sort of heads up in terms of those headlines and to reassure you that the independent review has now happened. And that was an independent review and also to let you know that obviously the report from this is coming out along with the action plan so the two are coming out together through the Schools Forum route at the end of March. This is obviously ahead of that.”

The further omission of the report has again raised public questions about why this report is not being released as promised.

People Scrutiny Commission Chair, Councillor Claire Hiscott responded to questions on Twitter saying: ‘No, this is not OK. It was promised to be published for schools forum. No mention of delay at People Scrutiny. Not impressed. Will investigate.’

For further coverage of the People Scrutiny Commission meeting

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