Suffolk union says pupil referal units may soon be able to refuse the most troubled pupils

The Albany Centre on Beard Road in Bury St Edmunds is a pupil referal unit
The Albany Centre on Beard Road in Bury St Edmunds is a pupil referal unit
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Troubled youngsters could be turned away by pupil referal units, if they are put in charge of their own admissions, a union in Suffolk has warned.

The National Union of Teachers in Suffolk has voiced fears over a decision to let pupil referral units (PRUs) become academies – putting them in charge of the pupils they select to take.

County secretary Graham White said the Government move could see tens of Suffolk pupils turned away by PRUs.

Suffolk County Council said those pupils would still receive a set number of hours of education a week, which could be provided by other means such as one-to-one tutoring.

“Whether a Suffolk PRU is an academy or not, it is in their financial interests to continue to take children,” said a council spokesman.

“Ultimately the county council, as the local education authority, has a duty to ensure all children receive an education. We will always fulfil this duty.”

But Mr White said: “The whole point of a referral unit is they should accept every pupil referred to them. Every pupil matters.

“You could have the situation where by one PRU refuses them in Bury and another accepts them in Ipswich so they have a long journey to make.

“Yes, the council has a duty of care and that may well be by one-to-one tuition but that may not always be the most appropriate for that pupil.

“It may be that what that child needs is a short time in a PRU and then to be reintegrated back into mainstream school.”

He also criticised a move by the county council which meant pupils with learning or behavioural difficulties are being taught alongside pupils with medical problems.

Mr White said there had been issues both with regards the suitability of the premises used, and with teachers’ contracts.

But the council spokesman said: “This has been the case for some time, can be to the benefit of the children and is, of course, properly managed by skilled head teachers or lead teachers who have expertise in working with these young people.”