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Teaching in a Pupil Referral Unit

Working in a Pupil Referral Unit means you’ll be helping children with problems much more difficult than their homework. Read on to find out more.

What is Pupil Referral Unit?

A Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) is a type of school which teaches pupils who are having problems in other schools. These might include:

  • students who have been excluded for anti-social behaviour and emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD)
  • students with special educational needs (SEN)
  • students with school refusal: a type of anxiety which stops them going to school
  • pregnant students and teenage mothers

PRUs are run by local authorities, and students are sent there by mainstream schools who feel they need extra care and support. Some students might attend all their lessons at the PRU, while others might split their time between there and a mainstream school. Most students do not stay in PRUs, and the aim is to get as many as possible back into mainstream education.

How do I get into teaching into a PRU?

You do not need any special qualifications to become a teacher in a PRU, so the routes into teaching are the same as for those working in mainstream schools, although you must already have completed your NQT year. However, some PRUs might offer you training in dealing with children with SEN and EBD, or you could look into taking a course yourself. Some volunteer experience working for a charity helping vulnerable people would also help.

Although a lot of what you’ll be doing as a PRU teacher – such as planning and delivering lessons and marking – will be similar to teachers in a mainstream school, it can be a very different environment day-to-day. Classes tend to be much smaller than in mainstream education as pupils need more one-to-one support. Pupils will also not all be on the same timetable – they should have personal education plans tailored to individual needs and such as extra support with literacy and numeracy, counselling sessions etc. Older pupils may have their timetable split between formal education and work experience, and a high proportion are likely to be children in care.

Getting students into the classroom, as well as keeping them under control while they’re there, can be a big issue in PRUs, which means you’ll need a strong but understanding approach to discipline. You’ll also have to be understanding of the fact that many students will be having a difficult time at home, and the ways this might be affecting their work, as well as explaining this to teachers in mainstream schools who might be concerned about accepting pupils from a PRU.

There are also opportunities for other more specialist roles working within a PRU such as social workers, educational psychologists, staff who liaise with the local authority and young offenders’ teams, and staff who arrange work experience with local employers.

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