DfE response on AP 'disingenuous', says Timpson review adviser

The government is “disingenuous” to claim it has accepted all of Edward Timpson’s recommendations on exclusions, claims an adviser to the review.

Timpson called for the Department for Education to establish a practice improvement fund “of sufficient value, longevity and reach” to identify children in need of support and deliver “good interventions for them”.

The fact that no funding has been pledged is a huge matter of concern

His review found “much variation in the quality of the offer within AP (alternative provision)”, with not enough support to attract high-quality subject-specialist staff, to invest in good facilities or “to remove the stigma attached to being educated in these settings”.

The government said it had agreed to all 30 recommendations “in principle”.

However, its detailed response, published later on Tuesday, showed it had only pledged a “practice programme” relating to the AP recommendation, with no mention of funding.

Kiran Gill, an AP expert who served on the reference group for the review, said vulnerable children needed more than “warm wishes” from ministers, warning that expertise for the system “is not going to come from nowhere”.

“The fact that no funding has been pledged is a huge matter of concern,” said Gill, the founder of The Difference, a charity that aims to boost the skills of the AP workforce.

“It is disingenuous for the government to say it is accepting all of the recommendations of this independent review if actually it’s not investing in it.

“We need to make sure we all hold it to account to make sure this isn’t like other reviews, where time lapses and in that period nothing really happens.”

Research by the charity Barnardo’s found one in three local authorities had no spaces in pupil referral units.

Gill urged ministers to “put their money where their mouths are and fight for funding for the most vulnerable”.

“Let’s not think the job is done simply because the government says it has accepted all the recommendations. We don’t just need warm wishes for these children.”

Alongside a proposed shake-up of AP, the government has pledged to look at capital funding for the sector in this year’s spending review.

Luke Tryl, the director of the New Schools Network, said the “obvious conclusion to draw from the Timpson review is that we need more high-quality alternative provision places”. He urged the government to “urgently” build more AP free schools.