One of the alternative education pathways that are in use is short to medium term full-time alternatives. Students are sent out of the school for anything from a few weeks to a year in order to provide: a break in long term patterns of disengagement, disruption and/or failure; a new experience of success and an opportunity to be and become someone else; health and welfare support to address needs; and either remedial or accelerated support for learning.
The research literatures are mixed on the success of young people returning to the schools that referred them to alternative education. In a few instances reintegration failed because providers and students have not been able to access relevant services (OfSTED, 2011), in others because schools have been unable to implement new appropriate supports into their programmes (Jolivette, McDaniel, Sprague, Swain-Bradbury, & Parks Ennis, 2012). Some studies note that schools have been largely unable to match the quality of relationships so valued by pupils in alternative education settings (Hilton, 2006; Lown, 2005, 2007). The response of peers to students reentering school is also very important. Peer issues range from lack of support for the young person being ‘someone different’ to harassment and bullying (Lloyd & Padfield, 1996).
A UK study on reintegration (GHK Consulting, Holden McAllister Patrtnership, & IPSOS Public Affairs, 2004), conducted before the current changes in exclusion policy, noted three kinds of barriers to reintegration:
(1) school reluctance, limited awareness of students’ needs, insufficient resources, negative aspects of the school environment and the lack of alternative options within the national curriculum
(2) contact and communication and some role confusion between individuals, agencies and schools, as well as a lack of continuity of contact
(3) external barriers, including lack of support from parent/carers, ineffective assessment procedures, poorly planned/timed reintegration and limited access to and/or continuity of provision of external services. (p. 7)
These findings contrast with some early ‘managed moves’ schemes which were characterised by a full service provision, preparation of a detailed development plan for each student, allocation of designated teachers responsible for the student and the overall implementation of the plan and for liaison between agencies and individuals (Thavarajah, 2010; Vincent, Harris, Thomson, & Toalster, 2007). This kind of ‘wrap around’ organisation now often appears in recommendations about ‘good practice’. Some researchers (e.g. Milbourne, 2005) warn that this kind of individualized multiagency approach can neglect structural and organizational issues which contribute to the difficulties experienced by young people and their families.
The notion of reintegration is difficult to separate from the important debate about whether returning to mainstream education is the major purpose of alternative provision, with some arguing that some young people benefit from long term alternative education, and that others can successfully move from alternative education to further education and training and/or work (more on this next post).
GHK Consulting, Holden McAllister Patrtnership, & IPSOS Public Affairs. (2004). The reintegration of children absent from, excluded or missing from school: Department for Education and Skills.
Hilton, Z. (2006). Disaffection and school exclusion: why are inclusion policies still not working in Scotland? Research Papers in Education, 21(3), 295-314.
Jolivette, K., McDaniel, S. C., Sprague, J., Swain-Bradbury, J., & Parks Ennis, R. (2012). Embedding the positive behavioural interventions and supports framework into the complex array of practices within alternative education settings: a decision-making process. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 38(1), 15-29.
Lloyd, G., & Padfield, P. (1996). Reintegration into mainstream: “G’ie us peace!”. British Journal of Special Education, 23(4), 180-186.
Lown, J. (2005). Including the excluded: Participant perceptions. Educational and Child Psychology, 22(3), 45-37.
Lown, J. (2007). What works in reintegration following exclusion: supporting the parts only peers can reach. In K. Pomerantz, M. Hughes & D. Thompson (Eds.), How to reach ‘hard to reach’ children: Improving access, participation and outcomes (pp. 97-111). Brighton: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Milbourne, L. (2005). Children, families and inter-agency work: experiences of partnership work in primary education settings. British Educational Research Journal, 31(6), 675-695.
Thavarajah, R. (2010). An exploration of the factors supporting sustained reintegration following permanent exclusion or a managed move through the young person’s perspective. (PhD), University of Bristol.
Vincent, K., Harris, B., Thomson, P., & Toalster, R. (2007). Managed moves: schools collaborating for collective gain. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 121(4), 283-298.