We set up Align to be a resource, support, and voice to those working in alternative provision, particularly those in AP’s which have to work outside the Ofsted framework.

I’ve worked in education for over 20 years, I’ve always worked, across mainstream and alternative provision with pupils who struggle to access education. I’ve seen the difficulties that can bring for them and, the life-changing impact it can have when the education system and caring adults come together to support them. For young people who struggle or are marginalised by mainstream education I have seen alternative provisions and their staff step in and revolutionise the trajectory their life was taking.

As part of the consultancy work I do now I have the absolute privilege of travelling round and visiting lots of alternative provisions, from large AP schools to small settings with only a handful of pupils. I also see the variety across the sector, I’ve visited forest schools, go-kart tracks, sports centres and farms and have seen them all bring something unique and valuable to struggling young people.

I have worked across lots of specialised alternative provisions that have an offer that doesn’t fit neatly into the Ofsted framework or that don’t have the resources needed to produce a curriculum offer the kind of specific education that Ofsted measures. I’ve heard leaders frustrations about how they can demonstrate their effectiveness and quality and I’ve seen first-hand some of the prejudice and misunderstandings they experience through not being registered.

For me, Align is a chance for the sector, which, in my experience, tends to work in isolation to work together to support each other. I’d love to see the specialised AP’s across the country have a stronger voice, a way to combat some of the negative press that can come and to really celebrate the great work you do. I’m not one for quotes particularly but I do like the African proverb, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

We’ve already got a great team working behind the group, we’ve had lots of people join in the week or so it’s been live, but the strength will come in the input you put in. Firstly, if you’re not already a member and you work or have an interest in AP then join up. Secondly, get involved, there is great expertise here already, but we’d welcome yours too. Ask questions, give support, bring your issues or your solutions and get involved. Thirdly, if this isn’t your area can you still like or share the post, others you know may be interested.

Mark Wrangles, founding member of ALIGN