Alternative provision – Partnerships are key to making remote AP work

Young teenage girl shown at home studying with the aid of a laptop, representing remote alternative provision

Alessandro Capozzi explains why the key to making online alternative provision work well is to adopt a partnership model

Alessandro Capozzi
by Alessandro Capozzi

Online alternative provision is increasingly on the minds of leaders up and down the country. This is driven by a growing number of students with additional needs, alarming teacher recruitment figures and post-pandemic shifts in the attitudes of parents towards their children’s schooling.

We can chart a marked increase in the use of non-state-funded alternative provision over the last five years. The 2023 National Behaviour Survey notes that significant numbers of teachers and leaders feel that the external support they receive is ‘not timely at all’. Then, of course, there are the 21.2% of students who were persistently absent from school across the 2022/23 academic year.

Timely and impactful alternative provision

According to the school leaders we regularly speak with, the regional and national responses to these issues are as you’d expect – workload taskforces, the launching of ‘attendance hubs’, the development of new SEND and alternative provision improvement plans.

These are all welcome, but unlikely to be prompt enough to solve the immediate capacity crisis in alternative provision. What’s needed are quality, timely and impactful solutions – but where can schools turn to?

Academy21 is an alternative provision provider that has successfully delivered live teaching with fully qualified teachers for over a decade. There’s a consistent theme at its core – that of partnership.

We know that developing in-house online provision entails significant challenges. This is not least due to stretched staff, high levels of risk and considerable set-up costs.

Partnering, however, lets you tap into established outside expertise, flexibility and capacity in order to meet your needs. So let’s examine what effective partnerships look like in practice.

Trust and consultation

First off, they amount to more than simply transactional exchanges. Truly effective partnerships are relational, based on a shared vision and trust between school and provider.

At Academy21, this starts with transparent conversations rooted in a school’s needs. Before any enrolments, we’ll first discuss how the school envisages online alternative provision working for them.

We’ll then prepare a programme tailored to each child. This is so that the school’s leadership can see how online AP will fit in around any existing constraints and prior goals.

It’s important to choose an online alternative provision provider that can sustain multiple options for students. This might be varied timetables, different contract options, the need for an especially broad curriculum or any other requirements.

Schools need the certainty of knowing they can offer genuinely best-in-class support for the duration of a child’s placement. They also need the capacity to add more students at a later stage if needs be.

Transition and quality

Student voice surveys tell us that 9 in 10 students feel more confident in their learning now that they’re with Academy21. We achieve this by carefully planning a smooth transition of students’ learning into the online space.

Our teachers are all highly trained, fully qualified and have a deep understanding of how to settle students and make online pedagogies work.

Academy21’s robust enrolment process further ensures that teachers are fully aware of every student’s needs, and includes live student inductions.

We can even provide support for students considering their post-school destinations. Staff show them the steps needed to go about making their future plans a reality.

We seek to further strengthen our partnerships by regularly inviting schools to quality assess our provision, and by providing access to lesson-by-lesson judgements on students’ understanding.

Schools also receive attendance updates, half-termly school reports and access to a host of other monitoring tools. Everything is recorded, which can play an important role in your school’s comprehensive safeguarding efforts.

Appropriate oversight, combined with an awareness among students of how they can expect to be monitored, can be a powerful motivator for improvement.

Alessandro Capozzi is executive headteacher at Academy21.

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