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Alternative Provision and Alternative Provision Free Schools

What is alternative provision?

Alternative provision is used by the local authority and Schools (including Learning Centres, free schools and academies) for pupils who, because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not receive suitable education; it is also used by schools for pupils on fixed period exclusion or pupils being directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour. Alternative providers offer an alternative educational package to that offered in a mainstream school setting, but will still have a focus on English, maths and science (functional skills).


Alternative providers range from being small educational settings to larger registered independent schools. Schools and the local authority are responsible for ensuring that the provisions they use are educationally suitable and comply with national guidance and legislation.


Where an alternative provision is registered as an independent school with the Department for Education and Ofsted, they are permitted to offer full-time provision to 5 or more pupils or to pupils with an Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) or a pupil in care.


All providers will undergo formal quality assurance by the referring schools or local authority. Free schools and independent schools will be formally inspected by Ofsted with an element of quality assurance relevant to their provision by the commissioning schools or local authority.


What do alternative providers aim to achieve?

The Department for Education stipulates that alternative provisions should:

  • Promote Good academic progress and attainment similar to pupils in mainstream school, particularly in English, maths and science (including IT) – with appropriate accreditation and qualifications.
  • Properly identify and address pupils’ personal, social and academic needs to help them overcome any barriers to attainment.
  • Improve pupil motivation and self-confidence, attendance and engagement with education
  • Have clear objectives, including next steps following the placement; for example: returning to mainstream school or further education, training or employment.


How do you access alternative provision?

Access to alternative provision is normally through a school or the local authority. Parents and carers cannot directly refer to an alternative provision. This is because most pupils will remain on roll at their mainstream school and the school will pay for their provision. However, alternative provision free schools and alternative provision independent schools may have their own admission processes.


If you wish to consider alternative provision this can usually be discussed with your school or the local authority if not on roll at a school. All schools in Nottingham city and the local authority will have access to a list of accredited alternative providers and can provide advice on what would be the most appropriate for your child. The school will be responsible for ensuring the provision is suitable and meets expectations in quality of provision. The school will also monitor progress, attendance and review the placement regularly.

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