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Alternative provision

Schools can sometimes offer learning opportunities for pupils at a different place. This is known as alternative provision.

Alternative provision - registered schools

These schools can meet the additional needs of children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs. The schools support pupils with a varied and less formal approach to learning. They are registered with Ofsted and are inspected. The schools can be maintained schools, academies or independent schools.

Many pupils who attend this type of alternative provision have an education, health and care (EHC) plan, but not all pupils do.

Alternative provision - unregulated

Alternative provision or learning can also be at place that is not a registered school or college. Schools sometimes pay for this alternative provision for pupils who are struggling to engage with learning at school, or need something more or something different. 

The pupil's home school has responsibility for the alternative provision. Objectives and a timeline should be agreed and set out clearly in writing. Schools should frequently monitor the progress of their pupil with visits and reviews. It is very important that the pupil's return to school should be carefully planned and supported.

Pupils who use alternative provision remain on-roll at their home school. The home school remains responsible for all learning.

When is alternative provision used?

Alternative provision is typically used by schools for young people if a full-time mainstream or special school timetable is not appropriate. 

For example, if a young person is more likely to engage with a vocational course for one to two days per week.

Find alternative provision

We (Norfolk County Council) do not have an approved list of alternative provision. It is the responsibility of commissioning schools to carry out appropriate checks and to regularly review their pupil's progress.

Norfolk County Council Unregulated Alternative Provision Directory 2022

Can a school send a pupil off-site for education to improve their behaviour?

Governing bodies of maintained schools have the power to direct a pupil off-site for education to improve his or her behaviour.

The Secretary of State has set out in regulations, how schools must use this power. The governing body must:

  • Ensure that parents (and the local authority if the pupil has an education, health and care (EHC) plan) are given clear information about the alternative provision placement. This should why it is being used, when, where, and how it will be reviewed
  • Keep the alternative provision placement under review and involve parents in its review. The regulations specify regular reviews but do not say how often reviews must take place. This should be decided on a case by case basis. Reviews should be frequent enough to provide assurance that the off-site education is achieving its objectives and that the pupil is benefitting from it

This law does not apply to academies. They can arrange off-site provision for similar purposes under their general powers, set out in the academy trust's articles of association. Although the regulations and guidance do not apply, they can provide academies with an example of good practice.


There are currently no formal requirements for safeguarding training in alternative provision. The commissioning school is required to check safeguarding arrangements.

Alternative provision is encouraged to access face-to-face safeguarding training. Training is available via the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership.

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