02 March 2010

Northamptonshire County Council is proposing a major transformation of provision of services for teenagers at risk of exclusion from school.

Currently the county council, supported by investment from schools, operates the Springboard initiative for 14-16 year olds. While this has, in the past, provided many students with alternative provision to address their needs the council is now seeking to create a new approach which will improve life chances for Northamptonshire teenagers and better prepare them for adulthood and the world of work.

The proposals will seek to build on government initiatives to give schools a greater role in delivering services to these students through attendance and behaviour partnerships.

Plans to transform existing provision were intended to be developed through the council’s wider review of special educational needs provision, which is currently underway. However, recent concerns expressed by Ofsted and questions about value for money achieved by Springboard have led the council to ‘fast-track’ this change.

A report will be presented to the council’s cabinet on 9 March. The report recommends that those elements of the unit focused on supporting young people with behavioural and emotional challenges should be delegated to schools, with funding being transferred from the council to existing school partnerships who would then work together to design provision relevant to their own circumstances.

Councillor Andrew Grant, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The pupil referral unit provides a very high standard of support for the young people attending the service and we know that it is valued by its students and their families for that reason.

“However, the needs of our young people in the 21st century are such that we need a modernised offer that enables them to develop skills that will help them to gain employment in the modern economy.

“Many of our secondary schools are driving forward new approaches in vocational education and can make a major contribution to this provision. In addition we need to secure better value for money at a time when the public sector is facing considerable financial challenges.

“We believe that it is possible to provide this service in ways that are more relevant to schools and their communities, and that will give schools the opportunity to decide for themselves how the service could best be provided in their area partnership.”

The proposed move towards area-based provision for emotional and behavioural support services is in line with government policy and would build on the existing network of school partnerships that have been set up in the past year throughout Northamptonshire.

The recommendations will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s cabinet next Tuesday 9th March. The papers can be viewed on the council’s website at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk