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Pupil Referral Units

Working in a Pupil Referral Unit to end Violence Against Women and Girls.

Violence against women and girls affects many children and families from all different classes, religions, ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.  It is a major risk to children and young people that can cause severe trauma, anxiety and can impact on educational attainment.

Many children and young people that attend Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s) will have experienced violence against women and girls and this could be the reason why they have been excluded from mainstream school. PRU’s offer children and young people a safe place to be educated where they can access a range of therapeutic services and interventions to meet their social, behavioural, medical and emotional needs. PRU’s are in a good position to deliver preventative work about violence against women and girls through PHSE, Art, Drama, group work, individual work, Citizenship, English and Media studies.

There are many materials and resources available that a PRU can adapt to enable the delivery of preventative work. The work is most effective when delivered via a multi-agency approach.  There are a range of voluntary and statutory agencies that can support this or may already be delivering this work to clients, or out in the community. This can include Youth Offending Teams, Social Services, Children Centres, Youth Centres, Homes Start, Refuges, Young Offenders Institutes, Prisons, School liaison police officers and CAMHS.  This can allow PRUs to develop relationships further and learn new skills. Sometimes it can be an opportunity for agencies to apply for external funding together to deliver a project. Achieving good outcomes for children and young people requires all agencies to work together. This co-ordinated response allows agencies to promote safeguarding and enhances and influences the PRU’s education provision. It can bring a new dimension to promoting the pupils moral, spiritual and social development and supports them in taking responsibility for their thoughts, behaviours and actions.

Violence Against Women and Girls prevention work can often be confused with or included in other work such as anti-bullying, child protection work, anger management or emotional literacy. Whilst these are important and in some ways connected to VAWG prevention, they are not the same and do not fulfill the same aims and outcomes as VAWG prevention work.

Case Study at Limes Pupil Referral Unit in Sutton, London:

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) prevention work delivered at the Limes College is always supported by VAWG specialists from the pastoral team. The team are aware of how to access support for families and how to refer to appropriate agencies and have up to date information on VAWG including the legal context and are aware of the prejudices and myths that society and other professionals may hold. All members of staff at the college are trained in VAWG and are aware of the safety issues that victims and their families face. Specialist group programmes are facilitated from the college by trained staff for families, these include survivor programmes for mothers and therapeutic recovery programmes for mothers and children. Group work and individual work is also delivered to address safety issues and give emotional support. There is a domestic violence and sexual exploitation policy in place that young people and parents have helped shape. The college is also aware that staff can be victims of domestic violence and offer support and guidance when needed. The college is actively involved in the borough’s domestic violence forum, national campaigns such as the White Ribbon Campaign and local campaigns such as domestic violence champions. The college has lots of good materials to use with young people and families that have experienced Violence Against Women and Girls such as DVD’s, art resources, policies, safety plans, drama plays, guest speakers and websites. All these materials enhance, highlight and promote Violence Against Women and Girls and show that Limes respond to domestic violence effectively.

At the Limes they are always looking to improve service delivery to best meet the needs of the young people and families that they support. They identified that they need to engage fathers more so that they are being held accountable for their children’s education. Often it is the mother who is getting invited to the many meetings that the school has, the majority of the time she is carrying the burden of attending exclusion meetings, phone calls and letters about negative behaviour and meetings about non-attendance. As a PRU they recognised the need to stop this culture of blame and hold men accountable for being fathers and dealing with the challenging parenting that mothers deal with. These men have been violent and this has often caused their children to come out of mainstream education and end up in specialist provision such as the Limes. Limes are currently developing a safe way to engage fathers in their children’s education and encourage them to take responsibility.