1. ITV Report

Excluded from mainstream - how Pupil Referral Units are transforming the lives of young people

By: Katie Orchard

People often think Pupil Referral Units are nothing more than a breeding ground for gangs. Recently they've had a lot of bad press - these perceptions can often be wrong.

I spent years working with vulnerable young people and I understand the importance of them having a safe and stable place to learn.

Being at the Pupil Referral Unit gives them the opportunity to do this combined with teachers that care and understand and really want them to succeed.

This is The Pavilion in Barnet - where all the children have been excluded from mainstream school. Talia is a former pupil and is back teaching a class trying to show them how they can turn their lives around.

I had a lot going on at home which was causing disruptions in my behaviour at school and I got labelled and branded as a disruptive child. Going to a Pupil Referral Unit and having the added experience means young people can relate with me a bit more than maybe with someone who didn't have that experience.

– Talia Kensit, Director, Youth Realities

A lot of the students here have complex needs which meant they couldn't cope in mainstream school. The timetables are designed around each child and classes don't have to be academic.

But it's not always easy and serious behaviour problems are the norm and violence can break out but it's a challenge the teachers are willing to take on.

We learn about de-escalation techniques. We do learn restraint but very, very rarely use it. The one thing we all have in common is that we are absolutely passionate about young people with SEMH - social, emotional and mental health difficulties and we all believe all young people deserve a second chance.

We work very hard to make sure that the negative perception within the media of Pupil Referral Units doesn't affect what we do.

– Joanne Kelly, Headteacher, The Pavilion School

The Pavillion works with other organisations and charities to give the children other support from therapy to practical life skills.

One of the things I put in place when I started is an annual trip to Mount Snowdon in Wales. It's a way of showing our students that we trust them.

These are young people who - when they were in mainstream school - they weren't allowed on trips.

One of the trips we did I was stood at the summit and I saw one of my young pupils stood away from everyone else.

And he turned and looked at me and said 'this is amazing! Look at this - this is life, this is real'.

– Rachel Phillips, Deputy Head, The Pavilion School

When pupils first arrive a lot of children are on the verge of going down a path that could ruin their lives. Being is this environment and the support they get here can give them another chance.