Excluded pupils ‘deserve better’

Burnside Pupil Referral Unit in South Chingford
Burnside Pupil Referral Unit in South Chingford (credit Google)

Council education chief admits local authority is letting down most vulnerable children, reports James Cracknell

A pupil referral unit (PRU) has been slammed by Waltham Forest Council’s director of learning as “the worst building in the borough”.

Burnside PRU in South Chingford looks after pupils who have been excluded from mainstream education, usually for behavioural issues, or who are unable to attend a mainstream school for other reasons.

At a council committee meeting last month, in a discussion about improving alternative education provision for young people, the council’s director of learning and systems leadership, David Kilgallon, said the facilities provided for vulnerable children at Burnside were not good enough.

David told the committee: “Burnside is not fit for purpose. It has had no investment for a number of years and we identified it a long time ago for refurbishment.

“We need a whole range of things to meet the needs of young people. These are the most deserving young people in the borough and we put them in the worst building in the borough – they don’t deserve that. When their need is greatest, they should get the best.”

The council is now working to replace Burnside but doing so will take at least two years, the committee heard. David added: “We have identified a site and we have allocated £10million for this – we want to build a new PRU and make them feel safe.”

David had earlier said that there were 250 young people who currently access out-of-school support in Waltham Forest and that officers recognised that “these were some of the most vulnerable people in the borough”.

There was praise at the meeting for Sir George Monoux College’s work providing pastoral support for young people and it was confirmed that the council will start working with the college to provide alternative education support. An existing programme run by Hawkswood Group in Chingford will be decommissioned.