Truancy still cause for concern at Pupil Referral Unit

THE CONTINUING failure of pupils to attend school is preventing the Pupil Referral Unit in Thurrock from making progress says a government report.

Ofsted told Thurrock Council that the two key areas to improve are:

1. Improve attendance for the majority of pupils so that they spend more time in learning.

2. Improve leadership and management by establishing clear roles and lines of responsibility.

The main findings of the report were:

1. In the Phoenix centre, pupils continue to progress satisfactorily. Joint observations between HMI and the assistant headteacher found that when teachers are well prepared and use regular praise to engage all pupils in speaking and listening tasks, pupils make good progress.

2. Progress is satisfactory in mathematics, but learning is not modelled for pupils so they easily forget how to do calculations and technical language is not always reinforced.

3. In the Phoenix centre, teachers know individual pupils well and manage their behaviour much more consistently. The numbers of exclusions and incidents requiring restraint of pupils have been dramatically reduced this year. Most pupils receive their full entitlement to learning.

Notably, half of all pupils in Key stage 2 regularly have 100% attendance, but overall rates have fallen from above to below the national average in recent months.

4. Attendance at the Culver centre remains a significant obstacle to pupils’ achievement. Despite their efforts, staff have had little impact on tackling the persistent absence of a small hard core of disaffected pupils and some transient pupils who only attend for short periods of time.

Attendance and absence rates remain below the 80% target set in its improvement plan and show few signs of improvement since the last visit. A home-school liaison officer has been recently appointed to improve attendance, but much more time is needed before this leads to higher attendance. Behaviour remains satisfactory: only three pupils have been temporarily excluded since the last visit.

5.There are few opportunities for pupils to develop their writing and limited guidance is provided to help them model good work. New interactive whiteboards help teachers to capture and retain pupils’ interest and to actively engage them in learning. Enrichment activities, such as music lessons and sports competitions, are used effectively to reward pupils for good behaviour.

Despite these improvements, the leadership’s monitoring shows that some inconsistencies in the quality of teaching remain which leaves the PRU’s target of 50% of good or better teaching by December 2011 a challenging one.

6. The leader of the Phoenix centre continues to raise expectations and drive improvements. Self-evaluation and improvement planning are increasingly rigorous and monitoring and evaluation is becoming routine. She is forging stronger links with local schools and agencies to increase opportunities for pupils and is encouraging parents and carers to work with staff at the centre. One pupil will be reintegrated into a mainstream secondary school in September.

Arrangements for leading the Phoenix centre in the absence of the assistant headteacher remain unclear and the assistant headteacher has had to assume responsibility for completing pupils’ statutory assessments. This places further constraints on her time to lead and manage the centre.

7. The instability caused by the imminent departure of the headteacher of the Culver centre is leading to some uncertainty. However, the newly appointed interim leaders are already gaining an understanding of the PRU and the issues it faces.

8. Although some initial progress has been made in strengthening relations with local schools, no Key Stage 3 pupils have been reintegrated into mainstream schools this year.

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