Plans to transform education for some of Swansea’s most vulnerable young people and dramatically improve their life chances are going before the council’s cabinet.
If approved, work will begin on a feasibility study into developing a centre at Cockett that would replace the existing, outdated accommodation, used by the Pupil Referral Unit that is currently scattered at various locations across the city.
There would also be a significant focus on ensuring more pupils who, at the moment, are educated other than at school (EOTAS) are helped to remain or return as quickly as possible to mainstream education.
These are pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) and if their needs are not fully addressed then their chances of future employment and wellbeing are greatly reduced.
Cllr Jen Raynor, Cabinet Member for Education, said:
“Education is a top priority for Swansea Council and the plans that are being put forward would mean the EOTAS service not only best meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable young people of our city but also sets a gold standard for Wales.
“It will significantly improve the life chances of children and young people currently accessing EOTAS services by ensuring that the vast majority are educated within mainstream settings.
“These plans will also ensure children and young people who still need to be educated in EOTAS settings will be accommodated in a high-quality learning environment and taught by a highly skilled workforce.”
Swansea Council’s Education Department has looked at several options to overhaul the service and the recommendations are going before cabinet on December 15.
Under the plans a feasibility study will explore the options for developing a centralised facility at the council’s Cockett House site.
This would replace the existing accommodation at Brondeg House in Manselton, the Step-Ahead site in Cockett and the Arfryn Education Centre in Penlan. The first two are no longer considered fit for purpose, while the latter lacks facilities and requires significant investment.
A pivotal part of the plans would also see the development of a “halfway house” setting which will support the rapid reintegration of pupils experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties back into mainstream schools.
There will also be enhanced early intervention and prevention for pupils at risk of becoming EOTAS and mainstream schools will receive extra support to help manage vulnerable children.
The out of school teaching service for pupils unable to attend school for reasons such as serious illness will continue as normal.
At the moment there are 159 children and young people accessing the pupil referral unit. It is anticipated within four years of the changes being implemented a significant number of these would be retained in mainstream education.
Cllr Raynor added:
“If we do not adopt the new model of service delivery it is likely that the life chances of children and young people accessing EOTAS services in the future will be reduced and the long-term costs on the public purse will in all likelihood increase as we fail to provide effective support for these vulnerable learners and their families.”