Excluded pupils 'often miss out' warns Estyn

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Pupils who need to be educated outside of the classroom often miss out on the benefits of the wider curriculum and specialist help, says watchdog Estyn.

Most are teenage boys who have been excluded from school, are refusing to attend or have behaviour problems.

It is estimated there are about 2,000 pupils in Wales like this - a number rising in recent years.

Estyn said the lack of a broad curriculum can have a negative impact on job and life prospects.

The figures did not include children who are home schooled.

Most of the teaching outside schools is at pupil referral units or from tutors sent to the pupils' homes.

The inspection found:

  • Very few pupils are taught by subject specialists and pupils can miss out on subjects like science.
  • They may not receive full‑time education - those who are given home tuition by councils might only get 10 hours a week.
  • Opportunities to continue Welsh-medium learning are "extremely limited".
  • Pupils with additional learning needs may not receive the specialist support they need.
  • Very few pupils gain A*-C grades in GCSEs in the core subjects of English or Welsh, maths and science.
  • A "major shortcoming" is they do not always have opportunities to study higher level courses, even when these better suit their abilities.

There is praise for good examples of how education out of school is working - including a project which gives pupils interested in football and rugby the chance to get work experience at a professional club.

Another offers vocational training in woodland crafts for pupils in a rural community.

Nearly all pupils - seven out of 10 are boys - improve their behaviour and learn to control their emotions, while developing positive relations with staff.

But the inspectors found a frustration among pupils themselves about what they were being offered.

Those in full-time special provision "consistently express their disappointment" at the limited curriculum - while knowing it would limit their qualifications and life prospects.

Estyn makes 17 recommendations for improvements for schools, local authorities and the Welsh Government.

How many pupils are receiving education out of school?

  • The number has risen over the last five years.
  • 2,157 - a Welsh Government snapshot estimate for January 2015, with 592 at pupil referral units. This is an increase from 1,220 in 2012-2013.
  • 1,162 - an Estyn survey of local authorities in May 2015.

Meilyr Rowlands, Estyn's chief inspector, said: "All children and young people are entitled to a broad education, regardless of the setting.

"Pupils who are excluded from school, refuse to attend school, or have challenging behaviour linked to social or emotional difficulties, often have significant gaps in their learning, low self-esteem, and limited aspirations for their future."

Inspectors visited Wrexham, Newport, Neath Port Talbot, Caerphilly, Gwynedd and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

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