Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) in England are to be given the same freedom to convert into academies as regular schools.
Charlie Taylor, the government's recently-appointed behaviour advisor, has announced that PRUs judged to be in the 'good' or 'outstanding' categories will now be allowed to become academies.
As of September, the first PRUs to operate as academies will come into being, giving them the same freedom to control their own budgets and education recruitment as other schools that have devolved from local authority control.
The Department for Education believes that it will allow PRUs to improve the quality of education they offer their students while also allowing them to strengthen their ties to other schools in their locality.
Pupil Referral Units are schools that teach vulnerable young people who are not in a mainstream school due to issues including behaviour or exclusion, illness and teenage pregnancy.
Government figures published in 2011 revealed that in the 2009/10 academic year, just 1.4 per cent of pupils in alternative education provisions including PRUs achieved the benchmark five A* to C grades at GCSE.
This compares to the national average of 53.4 per cent in schools across England.
Referencing last year's riots last year when making the announcement yesterday (February 27th), Mr Taylor said that if we fail to give a first-class education to the country's most vulnerable young people then everyone pays a heavy price.
"It is no coincidence that with great leadership and with more independence, mainstream academies flourish and improve faster than the national average," he commented.
"Heads of the best PRUs tell me that they want the same freedoms to improve education for the most vulnerable children. There is no reason why they should be denied this."
Offering his support of the move, John D’Abbro, head of the New Rush Hall Group of PRUs in Redbridge, said that allowing PRUs academy status can only be good news for all involved.
"My hope is that these greater freedoms and pending legislation will allow PRUs to work even more effectively with schools and pupils," he said.
Posted by Tim Colman