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Sector report

Pupil referral units


Click on individual markers for provider details



Number of providers 2023


Number of providers 2022


Number of providers 2021



No. of pupils


No. of pupils 2021-22


No. of pupils 2020-21

Core inspections

No. of core inspections: 4

Welsh-medium: 0

English-medium: 4

Case studies

No. of case studies: 1


No. in follow-up September 2022

SM: 0

SI: 0

ER: 0

No. removed 2022-23

SM: 0

SI: 0

ER: 0

No. went into follow-up 2022-2023

SM: 1

SI: 1

ER: 1

Total in follow-up in August 2023

SM: 1

SI: 1

ER: 1

During the 2022-2023 academic year, 2,396 pupils accessed some kind of education other than at school (EOTAS) provision. The most commonly used EOTAS provision were pupil referral units (PRUs), having 49.8% of all EOTAS enrolments. Since the pandemic, local authorities reported increases in the referral rates for EOTAS provision. This is particularly evident for local authority tuition services. There had also been an increase in referrals for younger primary-aged pupils. More pupils referred had significant social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs, rather than behavioural needs which historically was the case.

Generally, inspectors found that PRUs were making appropriate progress towards delivery of Curriculum for Wales. The breadth and balance of the curriculum offer across PRUs was appropriate and improving. Nearly all PRUs had strengthened their whole provision approaches to emotional health and well-being in response to their pupils’ needs.

Many of the pupils at PRUs had had poor attendance records from their previous schools. Improving the attendance of PRU pupils remained a challenge and was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Whilst local authorities expected EOTAS pupils to access a full-time curriculum offer where appropriate, too many pupils only had access to part-time education. Too many primary and younger-aged secondary pupils remained long-term in PRUs. As a result, a very few pupils successfully returned to mainstream school.

Four PRUs were inspected this year. Each one catered for a wide range of pupil needs and ages. One of the PRUs catered for older primary and secondary-aged pupils. Two of the PRUs catered for the needs of both primary and secondary-aged pupils. Lastly, the fourth PRU catered for the needs of older secondary aged pupils up to and including pupils aged 18. Two of the PRUs were multi-site and one was based at a hospital.

During 2022-2023 we also completed a thematic review of the Equity of curriculum experiences for pupils who are educated other than at school (EOTAS). We visited eight PRUs for this review.

Students sitting in a classroom

Teaching and learning

A majority of pupils made adequate progress from their initial starting points. As we reported last year, most pupils continued to need additional support for their emotional well-being and mental health. Ongoing attendance issues remained a challenge and impacted pupil progress. In addition, too many pupils had only parttime access to education.

In the four PRUs inspected, to meet the highly complex needs of pupils who attend provisions, leaders adopted a flexible approach to the curriculum, with a particular focus on pupil well-being. PRUs were considering how best to implement Curriculum for Wales, including the Curriculum for Wales education other than at school (EOTAS) guidance (Welsh Government, 2021). This was at varying stages of development and, overall, we found the quality and impact of this work to be highly variable.

In the most effective practice, leaders and all staff had a carefully considered strategic approach to planning the curriculum. As a result, the curriculum offer provided a breadth and depth of learning experiences. This supported pupil learning, progress, emotional health, and the therapeutic needs of pupils in a meaningful manner. It also supported pupils’ transition into their next planned destination well. However, the breadth and balance of the curriculum offer for primary and younger secondary-aged pupils in particular, was inconsistent.

The health and well-being curriculum in around half of the PRUs was developing suitably. As a result, pupils’ understanding of how to keep themselves safe and make informed choices was developed through a range of worthwhile activities. PRUs also focused on raising the aspirations of older pupils. In all PRUs, this was further strengthened through collaborative working arrangements with external agencies, for example the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

In the most effective lessons, teachers planned well to capture pupils’ interests and engage them in learning. Teachers used a range of worthwhile assessments to plan, track and monitor pupil progress.

Planning learning experiences to engage, challenge and support pupils at Canolfan Addysg Nant-y-Bryniau

This PRU works in partnership with the North Wales Adolescent Service. Staff at the PRU plan creatively for a range of learning experiences, which are very closely aligned to the clearly identified needs and interests of pupils. These experiences build systematically on pupils’ existing knowledge, understanding, needs and skills. Staff support and challenge pupils effectively and allow them to engage in their learning when they are well enough to attend the PRU to make the best possible progress.

In two of the four PRUs, planning for the development of skills across the curriculum was under-developed. A lack of opportunities to use skills consistently across the curriculum limited the progress of pupils. Progress in the development of literacy and numeracy skills was too inconsistent and the progression of skill development in ICT and Welsh was particularly impacted. However, at Canolfan Addysg Nant-y-Bryniau PRU, the development and use of Welsh skills across the curriculum was a strength.

Where practice was strong, pupils developed beneficial social skills through a range of purposeful activities. Overall, around half of pupils made progress in their social and communication skills in line with their needs and initial starting points.

The development of effective social skills at Flintshire Portfolio PRU

Many pupils develop effective social skills through a range of purposeful activities. In lessons they work well alongside each other. They take turns, play games, and celebrate in each other’s successes. During break times, pupils play team sports successfully and manage winning and losing well. For many pupils, this represents strong progress from their starting points.

In all PRUs, working relationships between staff and pupils were strong. Staff had a valuable understanding of pupil needs, particularly in relation to their vulnerability and social, emotional, behavioural, and well-being needs. Staff were positive role models and skilfully supported pupils to engage in activities. They deescalated incidents of behaviour effectively.

Support for pupils’ social and emotional skills at Ty Dysgu, Merthyr Tydfil

Staff in the PRU provide appropriate support for the development of pupils’ social and emotional skills across the curriculum. Staff use well-being assessments to provide detailed information to support priority areas of need for each individual pupil. Nearly all staff develop strong working relationships with pupils and understand their needs well. Nearly all support staff meet the needs of pupils in a sensitive and timely manner. Overall, staff provide positive role models for the pupils.

Students working on a bench outside

Care, support and well-being

Across all the PRUs inspected, the strong working relationships staff developed with the pupils helped them to feel safe, secure, and well cared for. The caring ethos of staff teams and use of person-centred approaches contributed effectively to pupils’ well-being, engagement, and personal development.

In nearly all of the PRUs, arrangements to promote positive behaviour were clear and well understood by most staff. Staff consistently promoted valuable behaviour strategies. As a result, pupil behaviour across nearly all the PRUs was appropriate. In the most effective practice, many pupils made sound progress in managing their own behaviours through the skilful support and intervention of staff. However, where pupil attendance was inconsistent and the use of part-time access to education arrangements were in place for too long, this impacted progress.

The effective use of a behaviour policy at Canolfan Addysg Nant-y-Bryniau

Canolfan Addysg Nant-y-Bryniau PRU is co-located with the North Wales Adolescent Service hospital provision. Staff at the PRU implement the behaviour policy consistently and they record incidents appropriately, in conjunction with health colleagues based at the hospital provision. Processes to monitor incidents and identify patterns and trends are robust and are used regularly as part of daily team meetings and to inform planning. The PRU demonstrates the progress pupils make in relation to their behaviours clearly when planning opportunities for them to return to their mainstream provision.

Many of the pupils who attended the PRUs had poor attendance records from their previous schools. In three of the four PRUs inspected, a minority of pupils improved their attendance whilst at the PRU. Where pupils did not have access to full-time education over prolonged periods this limited the progress they made in their attendance and learning.

Across many of the PRUs, a very few pupils returned to their mainstream school. This was particularly the case for primary and younger secondary-aged pupils. This was partly due to a very few pupils having opportunities to maintain worthwhile links with their mainstream schools. Too many pupils remained in PRUs for too long with no clear planned opportunities for reintegration to their mainstream schools.

For older secondary-aged pupils there was an appropriate focus on access to a range of qualifications in readiness for their next destinations. The breadth and balance of these qualification pathways was variable. Generally, pupils’ next destinations were well planned, and had appropriate support and guidance from the PRU and Careers Wales. As a result, the numbers of pupils leaving PRUs who did not engage in further education, employment, or training (NEET) were low.

In three PRUs, the processes to track and monitor pupil progress were inconsistent. Where practice was effective, processes were well established and bespoke to the needs of the pupils. These processes resulted in effective planning for progression in pupil skills, allowing pupils to achieve the best they could.

In two of the PRUs, processes to identify and set individual pupil targets for individual education or development plans (IEPs/IDPs) were under-developed. Where practice was effective, one-page profiles, individual programmes and targets to help staff to support pupils in their learning and behaviour were securely in place. In these PRUs, staff robustly reviewed pupils’ progress towards meeting these targets.

A half of the PRUs inspected provided valuable and regular opportunities for pupils to take part in a range of pupil voice activities. As a result, pupils developed a sense of ownership of their learning and behaviour, reasoning and leadership skills appropriate to their abilities and ages.

Communication with parents and carers across all the PRUs was strong. Staff provided purposeful information through a range of methods and frequencies to best support and keep parents well informed about their child.

Communication with parents and carers by Glanynant Learning Centre, Caerphilly

Staff at the PRU liaise with parents and carers on a regular basis. The teacherincharge, alongside relevant professionals, establish beneficial relationships with parents and carers by maintaining effective lines of communication. The well-established parenting project supports parents well. The PRU staff and educational psychology team provide valuable strategies to support parents to understand and manage their child’s behaviours at home. Parents report this strengthens the relationship between the PRU and home and supports staff and parents to work collaboratively to support learning.

In all the PRUs inspected, partnership working was robust. Each PRU worked with a range of agencies such as the local community police, health professionals, Careers Wales, the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), and social services. These multi-agency working arrangements supported a joined-up approach to supporting pupils and their families well.

In three of the PRUs, there was a robust safeguarding culture. Staff understood their roles and responsibilities clearly and followed their safeguarding procedures appropriately. As a result, in these PRUs arrangements to keep pupils safe met requirements.

Students working around a desk and laughing

Leading and improving

In two of the PRUs inspected, leaders had a clear vision and ethos for their PRU. This was clearly communicated with all staff. As a result, staff understood their roles and responsibilities well. Leaders collaborated beneficially with the local authority to ensure ongoing improvement.

Self-evaluation processes were robust in one of the four PRUs inspected. A strong system of quality assurance processes was well-established. As a result, leaders had a precise understanding of the PRU’s strengths and areas for development. In one of the PRUs, although the headteacher was new in post, senior leaders had identified priorities for improvement in a timely manner with staff contributing to the process. Self-evaluation processes were under-developed in three of the PRUs. Overall, outcomes of self-evaluation activities were not used well enough to accurately identify shortcomings by leaders.

Effective quality assurance processes at Canolfan Addysg Nant-y-Bryniau

The teacher-in-charge has established a robust system of quality assurance processes. These include learning walks, book scrutiny and weekly forensic monitoring of the mental health functioning in education (MHFE) tracking tool for each pupil. As a result, leaders have a precise understanding of the PRU’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Leaders promote a strong culture of reflection and collaboration, which supports staff to evaluate their practice and identify how they can make improvements.

Staff roles and responsibilities are distributed highly effectively to make best use of individual skills across the PRU. Teachers and support staff take responsibility for different aspects of the work of the PRU, for example, areas of learning and experience, trauma-informed approaches, therapeutic work with health colleagues, and developing pupils’ Welsh language skills. This means that all staff have a clear sense of working together to drive improvement.

Overall, the range and quality of professional learning opportunities for staff were too variable. Where practice was strong in one of the PRUs, a robust emphasis on staff skill improvement was evident. Leaders at the PRU had a precise understanding of staff strengths and provided relevant and regular opportunities for staff to develop their skills in line with self-evaluation processes.

In three of the PRUs inspected, the role of the management committee required further strengthening to effectively quality assure the work of the PRU. The working relationship with regional school improvement services was variable. In the most effective practice, school improvement partners knew the PRU well. They understood the range of pupil need, provided beneficial curriculum support and guidance, and collaborated with leaders and staff well.


Welsh Government (2021) Curriculum for Wales EOTAS Guidance. Cardiff: Welsh Government. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 November 2023]