Dorset pupil referral units are turning away excluded pupils

Pupil referral units in Dorset are turning away some excluded pupils after the local authority ran out of money to fund them.

Dorset county council says its learning centres will not take any more pupils who are suspended from school or at risk of exclusion this term. The centres will only admit those who have been permanently excluded or are in need of medical supervision.

Nick Jarman, director of children’s services said it was a “difficult decision” to close the centres to new temporary admissions, but said the council had already funded places at the five PRUs “significantly beyond our statutory duty” for some time.

The move came to light during a hearing of the parliamentary education select committee, which is holding an inquiry into the quality of alternative provision across the country.

Jules Daulby, the director of education at the Driver Youth Trust, told MPs that Dorset had “closed its doors” to all pupils at risk of exclusion.

She said the PRUs were “absolutely full” and had waiting lists.

“I don’t know how we’ve got to that situation,” she told MPs.

Jarman said all five learning centres are now running very close to capacity.

The centres in Weymouth, Dorchester, Blandford, Sherborne and Christchurch will now only take in pupils who have been permanently told to leave their schools and those whobecause of illness or other reasons, would not receive suitable education without such arrangements being made”.

The county council has “funded places significantly beyond our statutory duty from the high needs block which has contributed to a large deficit in the budget”.