Published On: 05/08/2022|686 words|3.5 min read|

What is Alternative Provision?

Alternative Provision (AP) is full-time education outside of mainstream school that is arranged by local authorities or schools themselves. AP is sometimes referred to as Alternative Education.

Local authorities can arrange alternative education for young people, who because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not otherwise receive suitable education. Schools can refer pupils on a fixed-period exclusion or permanent exclusion to an Alternative Provision.

Young people from different social and economic backgrounds have benefitted from attending an Alternative Provision. Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) are similar to Alternative Provisions as they both fall under the ‘state-funded Alternative Provision’ category. PRUs are typically a place that students attend due to behavioural issues or when they have no school place.

How can Alternative Provision be delivered?

So AP is not a physical school? Well, in short, not always. Alternative Provision can be sometimes delivered in several different settings, including:

  • Youth Centre settings
  • Sports facilities
  • Outdoor learning centres
  • Forest Schools
  • Animal-assisted therapeutic centres
  • Vocational and practical settings like car mechanics or hairdressers
  • Community centre settings

Alternative Provisions challenge the pre-conceptions of what a typical school ‘looks like.’ They are less traditional in their appearance but remain committed to supporting pupil development.

Class sizes at Alternative Provisions are much smaller, enabling them to deliver more bespoke support to students, including more regular pastoral support.
Depending on their individual needs, students attend on either a full-time or part-time basis. For some students, Alternative Provision is a chance to build confidence and improve behaviour and for others, it is all about reintegrating back into mainstream school – this means attending for a fixed-term period and then going back to mainstream.

Alternative Provision

Do you have to be a qualified teacher to work in Alternative Provision?

Staff in Alternative Provisions are not all teachers with degrees. NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) status and PGCEs are not mandatory. People with industry experience in social care, health care, youth work, law enforcement and beyond have successfully transitioned into Alternative Provision and utilised their skills to help pupils reach their potential and thrive.

How is Alternative Provision different to mainstream school?

Well, there are several differences.

Alternative Provisions are;

  • Typically smaller in size. Smaller class sizes allow teachers and teaching support staff to get to know each student and tailor teaching to meet their needs
  • Students learn what is appropriate to them
  • Students are encouraged to be themselves
  • Teachers are given curriculum flexibility and are encouraged to think outside the box
  • Teachers, pastoral mentors, and Heads of Schools are recruited from many different industries bringing a diverse mix of professional and personal experience and lots of valuable skills – not just from the education sector.

Who benefits from Alternative provision?


Not all pupils are suited to mainstream education settings. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just ‘naughty’ kids who benefit from Alternative Provision schools. Young people who do not attend mainstream school due to behavioural issues, short- or long-term illness, diagnosed and undiagnosed special educational needs, mental health needs or school exclusion may be referred to an alternative site provision.


Alternative provision is as challenging as it is rewarding. Dramatically smaller pupil numbers, the freedom to deliver a flexible curriculum, plus consistent support from senior management combine to offer staff the opportunity to truly participate in and help steer the learner journey.

Parents/ Carers

The consistent support offered by Alternative Provisions extends beyond pupils and staff, offering parents and carers additional support. This holistic 360-degree approach enables students to truly thrive outside the classroom.


It’s not rocket science. Young people with a clear understanding of their potential and consistent support to help them achieve their goals often shape future communities. The more they engage and challenge themselves to achieve the more our young people focus on the bigger picture.

Alternative Provision

At Complete Skills Solutions we have partnered with Progress Schools to deliver Level 3 Teaching Assistant Apprenticeships across several of their locations in England. You can find out more about this exciting opportunity here.

Discover more about Progress Schools and how they are supporting young people to achieve their potential here.

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