Truancy from special unit claims report

PUPILS are playing truant from a special unit, designed to help their education after they were expelled from school, according to a new Ofsted report.

PUPILS are playing truant from a special unit, designed to help their education after they were expelled from school, according to a new Ofsted report.

Westbridge Pupil Referral Unit in Ipswich, is similar to Parkside - featured in the Evening Star last month – in that it caters for 14 to 16 year olds with serious problems.

Almost all who attend the unit have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools – and now some are even failing to attend the unit too.

The report concludes that although there are a number of strengths at Westbridge, it has some serious weaknesses that need to be resolved by Suffolk County Council.

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The team of inspectors who inspected Westbridge, confirmed that "Pupils who attend regularly achieve well in the subjects they study, improve their behaviour and develop satisfactory attitudes to their work."

The unit provides satisfactory, often good, teaching, very good careers and vocational education, and develops good and constructive relationships with parents.

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The inspectors also acknowledged that "strengths lie in the knowledge teachers have of both the subjects and the pupils they teach, and the lessons are planned to match pupils' needs and abilities.

The report added: "teachers have an infectious enthusiasm which motivates pupils and captures their interest."

The inspection team did, however, identify a number of areas that could be improved including pupils' attendance, the provision for teaching personal, social and health education, assessment and monitoring, the effectiveness of the management of the unit (in particular by the LEA), and the accommodation.

Frances James, special education manager at Suffolk County Council said: "Obviously we are disappointed by the Westbridge report, although we are pleased that a number of the unit's strengths were recognised, including the work of the teachers there. We welcome the inspectors' comments, as they give us a clear indication of the work we need to do to improve the quality of education there. We have already started to act on this by setting up a Core Action Group to respond to the findings of the inspectors and to address the key issues."

The Education Welfare Service will work with the team at Westbridge to manage attendance by young people, and on a major project to adapt the internal classrooms in the building.

The building scheme, which is worth around £100,000 and is out to tender at present, will improve the design and technology and science areas, and create new teaching space. It is due to be started by the end of July.

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