Agenda item


Purpose: To assess how well Surrey’s Alternative Provision meets the needs of Children and Young People in the county, and how well it enables them to maximise their potential in both adolescence and adulthood.




Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Lifelong Learning

Julia Katherine, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Carrie Traill, Service Manager – Educational Effectiveness (Head of Education)

Dee Turvill – Alternative Provision & Participation Manager

Sandra Morrison, Assistant Director Inclusion & Additional Needs SE

Leanne Henderson, Participation Manager, Family Voice Surrey (FVS)

Gen Dearman, CEO of Challengers

Key points made in the discussion:

  1. Family Voice summarised the findings from their Alternative Provision (AP) survey conducted in September 2023, which highlighted some children were receiving very little or no AP after missing 15 days of school. The Alternative Provision & Participation Manager said such cases were neither typical nor the exception but complex. On occasion more than one independent provider was offered to build up a full-time package.


  1. The survey found inconsistencies in medical evidence required; Family Voice said this issue was not new, but there had been an escalation in emotional-based non-attendance since the pandemic. The Alternative Provision & Participation Manager informed the Committee that following a new medical policy in December 2023, a new medical panel aims to deliver consistency in the messaging to parents and the evidence requested which, while not a legal requirement, helps to ensure provision is appropriate.


  1. The Cabinet Member thanked Family Voice for their exemplary work and noted that as a result of a Local Ombudsman review, there had been a programme of improvement with the objective of a consistent and compliant approach to all children with alternative provision needs.


  1. The CEO of Challengers spoke about the charity, which provides play for excluded children with disabilities and is funded mainly by the Local Authority directly but sometimes by schools. She shared that 12 of the 22 children they have supported over the last year have now reintegrated into education. She explained that children were with them for an average of 6.5 months and the longer they had been out of education before being supported by Challengers, the longer it took to get them back into education. The charity has a waiting list. Asked if it had been impacted by changes in short breaks funding, the CEO replied that it had affected parents’ resilience and the behaviour and confidence of young people who received less play provision.


  1. A Member asked if there were protocols that included clear criteria for what was expected from alternative provision providers, at the point of commissioning and in terms of quality of delivery. The Member also asked what assurance checks were conducted, especially on unregistered providers. The Service Manager for Educational Effectiveness responded that 58% of young people in AP attended either a short stay school or AP academy, both of which have a service level agreement with the Council and are monitored by Inclusion Officers on a half-termly basis. She added that 100 per cent of these are Ofsted rated Good or Outstanding. The independent sector has termly monitoring visits. Checks had increased under a new dynamic purchasing system. Each individual child has a plan monitored by their SEND case officer, with targets taking into account their past trauma. A Member expressed concern over some children experiencing changes in their case officer.


  1. The current alternative provision strategy was agreed in 2021. The Member asked how the Council was meeting Family Voice’s ambition for all children to access full-time education. The Alternative Provision & Participation Manager said the goal was for children to access a minimum of three hours a day but there were cases where due to demand this was not being met.


  1. A Member asked if witnesses acknowledged that some school leaders, parents and carers felt that they had not been suitably involved in decision-making around alternative provision. The Service Manager for Educational Effectiveness said that the Service cares deeply about schools, parents, carers and other stakeholders. Comprehensive consultations took place when developing the Dynamic Purchasing System and the Service was committed to constant improvement. The Assistant Director said the Service had met with Family Voice to discuss their recommendations and had agreed to work together to develop solutions.


  1. A Member asked about the length of time children spent in alternative provision and how successfully reintegration was being measured. The Service Manager for Educational Effectiveness said the average duration was six months, though some cases could be a lot more complex and require more time. Work was underway internally within the Council but also with partners to see how schools could expand existing alternative provision programmes within schools. The aim was to keep pupils in the same environment and disrupt their education as little as possible.


  1. Noting that the Local Ombudsman had found 63% of reviewed cases were not compliant with duty, a Member asked if this had been rectified and how. The Assistant Director Inclusion & Additional Needs SE said that there had been training conducted with case workers on their responsibilities. The Service was also launching another dip sample to review cases against the quality used in the previous dip sample, which would be shared with the Committee when available.


  1. A Member asked how the Council and Surrey schools were managing the safeguarding of children and young people whose alternative provision was part-time. The Assistant Director said issues would be identified by the Inclusion Officers’ half-termly checks. Where independent alternative providers were used, the Council expected them to have DBS and other security checks in place. The Council would not dictate to schools which alternative provision providers to access, but would share those with a good history of compliance. The Chair emphasised that it was right for the safeguarding of children absent from school to be a priority.


Break at 11:54, meeting resumed at 12:04.


  1. Alternative Provision & Participation Manager to provide the number of CYP not routinely accessing 15 hours of alternative provision a week.


  1. Head of Education to provide the number of hours of AP a day received by the 42% of CYP not in a PRU/AP Academy.


  1. Alternative Provision & Participation Manager to provide the number (and proportion) of AP placements provided by the third sector.


  1. Head of Education to provide data on how many CYP who reintegrate into education following AP subsequently bounce back into AP. 


  1. Assistant Director – CFL Commissioning to provide more information on the breakdown of funding for Independent AP, given the wide variance (between £96-£153,000 per pupil).



The Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee:

1)    Recommends that, by September 2024, the Service strengthens its Governance Group to ensure all parties engaged in Alternative Provision have a forum to discuss key issues, with the aim of improving provision and relationships between the Council, school leaders, parents, carers and providers.


2)    In order to have knowledge of the quality of alternative provisions used and offered to children and young people, recommends criteria measuring the outcomes of individuals using AP are developed and implemented by the Service within six months, to include: educational attainment; employment destinations; number of weeks Children and Young People (CYP) spend in AP before being reintegrated into education; how many CYP are successfully reintegrated into education; and how many CYP return to AP following reintegration.


3)    a) welcomes the agreement of SCC to agree each of the Family Voice Surrey (FVS) AP recommendations, and


b) recommends that SCC:


(i)            prioritises the development of the parent handbook described in FVS Recommendation 3 with the aim of delivering it by the end of June 2024;


(ii)           provides a delivery date for the recommendations that are entirely within its responsibility by April 2024;


(iii)          and consults with partners to agree a delivery date for the other recommendations by June 2024.

Supporting documents: