Special measures for 'crummy' unit

Some of Norfolk's most troubled children face a bleak future because they are being taught a second-rate curriculum in “crummy” buildings, it was revealed last night.

By STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondent

Some of Norfolk's most troubled children face a bleak future because they are being taught a second-rate curriculum in “crummy” buildings, it was revealed last night.

The 130 youngsters in the Norwich area pupil referral unit (PRU) have behavioural problems and many have been expelled from school.

Last night it emerged that the six buildings that make up the central area PRU have been put on special measures by unimpressed Ofsted inspectors who slammed a host of “inadequacies”.

The move has heightened calls for the young people to be moved out of the six separate units into one of the schools that is about to become vacant in the Norwich area education shake-up.

The Ofsted report, which followed visits to the units on May 15 and 16, said the PRU's overall effectiveness was “inadequate”, and “too many” pupils made insufficient progress because of “weaknesses in educational provision”.

Most Read

Pupils spent too little time in the classroom to “achieve satisfactorily”, while a large number of pupils with special educational needs were not given proper support with maths, reading and writing.

The report added: “Too many pupils, at key stage four in particular, fail to attend regularly and therefore make no progress.

“In nearly all the centres the accommodation is poor, impacting negatively on the quality of facilities and resources, and this in turn often adversely affects the curriculum and pupils' progress.”

The report slammed the PRU's management committee and leaders for their “slow and inadequate response” to the weaknesses.

Sue Whitaker, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, has tabled a question to the council's cabinet on Monday, asking what urgent action was being taken rectify the “dreadful accommodation”.

In two weeks a number of schools in the Norwich area will become surplus to requirements as a result of a shake-up that means all children will transfer to high school at age 11.

Ms Whitaker said: “It strikes me there must be possibilities there. Having the PRU under one roof must be a good idea for the children and for the management.”

She added: “I'm extremely disappointed at what is happening. If you can't get it right for these children then it doesn't bode well. They are split over six buildings, and are in crummy accommodation.”

Fred Corbett, deputy director of children's services, said: “We are working with the PRU to help address the issues identified in Ofsted's report, particularly the issue around accommodation.

“The PRU is currently spread over several sites and bringing these together is a priority for children's services. We hope to use one of the school buildings which will become redundant in September, and are currently consulting with the public on this matter.

“The county council is putting in place new governance arrangements to oversee the redevelopment of the PRU, provide support for the improvements in leadership required and to co-ordinate the accommodation issues.”

The PRU is made up of:

t the Terrapin, an administrative base at The Hewett School which houses the primary focus team

t the Aylsham Road Centre, which houses the secondary focus team and groups of 11-16-year-olds

t the Bethel Street Centre for children with medical needs and 14-16-year-olds who are new to the PRU and undergoing assessment

t the Bowthorpe Centre, which educates 14-16s on the alternative curriculum programme

t the Earthsea Centre, which provides full-time education for seven-11-year-olds

t the Education Plus project, for 11-16s with statements of special educational need, all of whom are in the care of the council.

Liz Jones, headteacher at the PRU, said: “I am obviously very disappointed that Ofsted has decided to place the unit in special measures but am encouraged that the inspectors' report also highlights the unit's strengths.

“We must now build on these strengths to help improve the PRU and ensure it is successful in all areas. We are currently working with the county council to address issues around the PRU's accommodation and hope that, with improved facilities in the future, we will really be able to flourish.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter