PRU: the end as we know it? Not necessarily!

30 Sep

I was asked to go to visit a new student due into the unit in the next few days. The usual process was a home visit, followed by a visit to the unit prior to the student starting full time education.

This student was different. William was from a middle class family, who simply could not see why their precious child was excluded let alone why he had to go to such a god forsaken place as an ‘exclusion unit’. William’s parents were adamant that their precious boy was NOT going there. It wasn’t his fault that he was excluded anyway.

In the kitchen, William sat folded arms, disinterested with the whole thing. His mother was distraught. This exclusion was the end of life as we know it. His whole education was ruined and there was no hope whatsoever.

William was heavily medicated for ADHD. He seemed rather the opposite to me, to be honest, very passive, almost dismissive. He was a smoker, a footballer and took great care with his appearance, no hoodies here. He was interested in art, but that wasn’t cool on the grand scheme of things. Neither was school to be honest.

20120930-183907.jpgI explained to Williams parents that in fact a PRU may have a few options for William. The classes were smaller, the students all had something in common, and yes, they still did GCSE’s. As with many parents of permanently excluded children, she was sceptical. I explained the very personalised approach, she and more importantly William were always in the loop. There were options, school outreach programmes, always someone at the end of a phone. Most importantly we knew what they were going through, and if she couldn’t get William into the school transport, then she simply needed to tell us that. We weren’t fixated on stats, and taking parents to court, we simply wanted to engage students in education through things that interested them.

Within 45 minutes, William’s mother was in tears. Tears of joy. She couldn’t believe the relief from all the battles with school that were over, someone who was on their side, and a ‘school’ that actually understood.

William’s future

By the time William left, he had gained enough qualifications at 16 to go on to college and study art A levels, part time, whilst also working and earning himself some independence.

Comprehensive education?

I understand the theory behind a comprehensive education for all, but the simple fact is all those square pegs do not always fit in those round holes. All William needed was a bit of attention and encouragement in a supportive environment, then he thrived. Is a PRU a bad thing? Not always. When managed correctly, and with the same high expectations, pupil referral units can get the best out of students where all other educational establishments may have failed.


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