Teaching in Alternative Provision
27 October 2023

Over 9 million pupils currently attend some form of Alternative Provision (AP), with an increase of almost 80,000 pupils in 2023. These increasing numbers demand increasing numbers of staff to provide a quality education for some of the most vulnerable pupils.

Working in AP can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, but it’s fair to say that it might not be suited to everyone. Here, we’ll go over some key aspects of working in AP to help you consider whether it might be the right move for you.

What Is Alternative Provision?

Alternative Provision offers pupils the chance to be educated outside of a mainstream school, in a setting arranged by local authorities or schools. Typically these settings provide education for pupils who have been excluded from mainstream education, missed significant chunks of schooling through illness or who otherwise may not be suited for mainstream schooling. Attendance at an AP setting may be on short-term or permanent basis.

A common misconception is that Alternative Provision is just a school for “naughty children.” This is far from accurate, and in fact, an AP may not be a school at all. AP’s come in a variety of forms and can include: vocational settings, community centres and sports facilities amongst others.

Is Alternative Provision The Same As A PRU?

A Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) is a specific type of AP setting. Most PRUs are small schools that cater for pupils who do not, or cannot, attend a mainstream school. Pupil numbers and class sizes are smaller than mainstream settings, and there is more support in place for children. Whilst many children attend a PRU due to behavioural issues in mainstream schools, the reasons for being in a PRU vary.

Why Consider Teaching In Alternative Provision?

APs provide education for some of the most vulnerable pupils in the country. And since pupils returned to the classroom following the COVID-19 pandemic, exclusions have incresed by one-third. This puts significant numbers of children at risk of not receiving the education to which they’re entitled, potentially leading to a lifetime of disadvantage.

The work being done by APs aims to provide children who need the most support with the opportunities that children in mainstream education receive. It is a very challenging, but ultimately very rewarding career path for qualified teachers.

What Skills Do I Need For Working In Alternative Provision?

Whilst APs make for very rewarding workplaces for teachers, they may not be suited to everyone. We asked James Krebs, an Assistant Headteacher responsible for alternative pathways at the Marvell College in Hull, which individuals are best suited to working in APs.

Moral Purpose

“The first thing I would say,” James told us, “is that anyone looking into Alternative Provision as a career path must have a very clear sense of moral purpose. No teaching job is easy, and Altnerative Provision can be especially challenging, so having a strong sense of why you want to work in this setting is crucial to the success of any staff member.”

Our experience of working with thousands of teachers across the country is that the most successful candidates are the ones whose vision, values and ethos align with the school they are working in. If you’re thinking about applying for work in AP, it will be well worth taking the time to think about what difference you want to make, and whether that provider aligns with your goal.


Many children who attend Alternative Provision have complex needs. The reasons for attending AP vary, but can include: exclusion due to behaviour, medical issues which prevent attendance at a mainstream school, being an asylum seeker or refugee with no school place, or having complex SEN requirements. All of these can present unique and often challenging behaviours.

James says, “understanding why a person is acting in a certain way is crucial in helping them deal with with challenges and more importantly, overcoming them.”


Working in AP can be difficult at times, which may put additional strain on teachers. As Ross McGill of Teacher Toolkit wrote, few APs are run by the local authority, which can put them under financial pressure when it comes to funding and meeting the needs of their pupils. Staff working in APs may often find themselves working hard to overcome these external challenges. Combined with some of the internal challenges teachers are likely to face, resilience is key attribute required to succeed.

As James put it, “we support our staff to be their best and make a positive impact, day in, day out. Part of this is understanding that there will be days when things don’t go as we’d hoped, and that’s ok. The key thing is dusting yourself down and going in the next day ready to make a positive impact once again.”

The Next Step

The world of Alternative Provision is an exciting, fast-paced, yet very challenging one. If that sounds like it might be up your street, or you’d just like to find out a bit more information, you can feel free to get in touch with us for a chat.