Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Positive Results Unveiled

peeled apple

Shelley Dannell is head of the Pavilion Study Centre, a pupil referral unit in London. In this diary piece for Leader, she shows that there's more t to a PRU than one might think.

"Parents on the phone for you," my PA announced as she put a phone call through to my office. Theirs were not names I knew, which was a little surprising.

"We would like to come and take a look around the Pavilion," they suggested. "We feel it would be ideal for our daughter who is in year 6. We have heard that the classes are small, your GCSE results are excellent and we live nearby."

"The Pavilion is a pupil referral unit and she will have to fit our admissions criteria," I explained.

"She is doing very well at her current school and her SATs results are expected to be excellent," they replied.

I explained that the criteria I referred to was the need to be permanently excluded from mainstream school. On this occasion the conversation was not prolonged.

The Pavilion is, in fact, extremely popular, receiving frequent calls from desperately anxious parents whose unhappy children feel they do not fit into the system.

Just as common are calls from other secondary heads, always keen to work with us - particularly when sending us their students, although sometimes a little less so when discussing reintegration. By early spring we usually have a waiting list of permanently excluded secondary aged students.

I remember the first day back from the summer holidays, watching the students as they arrived. 'Attitude' was overflowing as normal but they were really pleased to be back in the familiar surroundings that they had once proclaimed that they would hate.

They were greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the staff, many of whom were probably already dreaming of the next half term break and the Christmas holidays.

I always start the academic year with an assembly for our existing students and their parents, where I explain how we will work together to support and encourage success - whether in a return to mainstream or in gaining the qualifications necessary to set them up for life. At this time I also review the achievements of the last year, in order to show them clearly that success in all areas can be theirs.

On this occasion I decided to talk about the successful opening of our second centre, designed to cope with the demands of the DCSF's ruling on full time provision from the sixth day of a permanent exclusion.

I thanked both students and parents for their support towards our long awaited and dreaded Ofsted in January which had gone so well, earning us praise and recognition.

I reminded them that on the academic front outstanding results had been achieved. The GCSE results had been startling in both the quality and the breadth of subject. The students and parents were cheered by the thought that the results would be the envy of many of the mainstream schools from which they had been excluded.

I went on to tell them that the dance project, aimed at showing the benefit of the arts, in which they had participated and which had ended in two live theatre performances, had been filmed and was now being viewed and acclaimed by audiences all over the world.

They were not just part of the performance, they were the performance, and their names and that of the Pavilion were now known in the highest places (including the House of Commons). I also told them that at the end of the year our football team was undefeated by the local schools and colleges.

Most importantly, I told them how proud the staff and I were as what they had done in the previous year had dispelled amongst people the stereotypical image of PRU students!

Shelley Dannell is head of the Pavilion Study Centre, a pupil referral unit in London.

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