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Teaching unit for Sheffield’s most challenging pupils is improving

Sheffield Inclusion Centre.
Sheffield Inclusion Centre.

A Sheffield centre which teaches children excluded from mainstream schools is making progress after inspectors ordered it to improve despite having more pupils than places.

Sheffield Inclusion Centre, on Spring Lane, Arbourthorne, was judged to require improvement in two previous visits by Ofsted inspectors.

Headteacher Andy Ireland, centre, surrounded by some of his staff. Picture Steve Ellis

Headteacher Andy Ireland, centre, surrounded by some of his staff. Picture Steve Ellis

The centre is one of the biggest pupil referral units in the country and, according to the latest report from Ofsted, the big student roll has remained due to the high level of exclusions in the city.

It has both primary and secondary departments and takes youngsters who, for a variety of reasons, have moved out of normal schools.

READ MORE: Staggering number of school exclusions across Sheffield revealed

After the latest visit, in September, inspectors found ‘effective action’ is being taken to improve.

Headteacher Andy Ireland.

Headteacher Andy Ireland.

A new management committee was appointed in September 2017 and a new staffing structure was introduced last month.

More pupils have been taking exams and twice as many pupils gained GCSE passes in English and maths in 2018, compared to 2017.

The centre is integrating more pupils into secondary schools than previously and is changing the curriculum to promote more and quicker reintegration of primary and key stage three pupils back into mainstream education.

Work is also ongoing with schools to reduce the number of permanent exclusions.

Headteacher Andy Ireland said: “It is really pleasing to see the positive developments at Sheffield Inclusion Centre recognised in this report.

READ MORE: Sheffield MP brands school ‘shameful’ after more than a quarter of pupils excluded

“As highlighted in the inspection findings, we are developing strategies to work with schools to reduce the number of permanent exclusions in Sheffield.

“At the same time we are developing the curriculum and support for our students so that they might move on successfully to further education, training or employment.

“In addition to the findings from Ofsted this is further demonstrated in last year’s increases in GCSE results at the school and numbers of young people reintegrating successfully back into schools.”

He thanked his staff for their ‘dedication and efforts’ in making the improvements.

Inspectors found due to the high number of pupils, the centre depends on the use of alternative providers and staff are making better use of other agencies to promote pupils’ speech and language development, mental health, safety and social care.

READ MORE: Fewer Sheffield pupils are excluded from school

They added that the proportion of pupils who speak English as an additional language, many of whom are Roma Slovak, continues to be high.

The new management committee have brought a high level of experience from various areas, including mainstream and special schools and youth justice.

Chairman of the management committee, Gail Gibbons, said: “The management committee that oversees the work of the school has grown over the last 18 months and now has representation from all educational sectors in the city and the local authority.

“This demonstrates the real partnership we are growing in Sheffield to provide a coordinated approach to offering more support and opportunity for what are some of the city’s most vulnerable young people.

“Although there is still some way to go, I am pleased the partnership and work done so far has been recognised by Ofsted in this report.”

READ MORE: Sheffield Park Academy students excluded for bringing knives into school