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What is Alternative Provision?

Alternative Provision (AP) provides education to pupils who are unable to attend mainstream schools. This is often (but not always) due to exclusion. Within the AP sector there are a variety of types of providers that cater for pupils with diverse needs, abilities and reasons for being in AP.

Pupils in Alternative Provision

In January 2018 around 49,500 pupils attended APs in England (making up 0.6% of pupils in the state sector). Certain groups of pupils are more likely to attend AP than others.[1] For example, 66% of pupils were aged 14-15 (compared to 13% in the state sector), 80% had special educational needs (compared to 15% of all school age pupils), and 40% were eligible for Free School Meals (compared to 14% in the state sector).

On average pupils that end Key Stage 4 in APs achieve far lower educational attainment compared to pupils in the state sector as whole. For example, in 2016/17 around 5% of AP pupils achieved 9-4 passes in English and maths at GCSE, compared to 64% in the state sector. In 2016/17, 14% of pupils that ended Key Stage 4 in APs were not in education, employment, or training (NEETs) at 16 compared to just 2% in the state sector.


AP has been under increasing pressure in recent years, mainly due to reductions in expenditure (in both cash and real terms), combined with rising demand for places, causing per pupil expenditure to decline further. The majority of funding for APs is made up of a combination of place funding and top up funding paid by either the local authority or the commissioning school. Place funding per AP pupil was £10,000 in 2017/18 (frozen since 2015/16), compared to basic per pupil funding of around £2,700 at primary schools, £3,800 at Key Stage 3, and £4,400 at Key Stage 4.

Current Issues

In July 2018, an Education Committee inquiry made several recommendations for the AP sector. The report drew particular attention to off-rolling (unlawful removal of pupils from school rolls), as well as other issues such as lack of funding and support for pupils over 16, general funding pressures, lack of a register for all APs, and disincentives for schools to maintain responsibility for pupils in AP.

[1]     Pupil characteristics data is based on certain AP providers only. Find more detail in Section 1.3 ‘AP Pupils’.

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