What is a pupil referral unit (PRU)? What is it like to work in one? How do you get a PRU job? And how do you know if it’s the right setting for you? Find out the answers to these questions and more here.
What is a PRU?
A PRU, or pupil referral unit is an educational establishment for children who do not attend mainstream schools. There may be a range of reasons why pupils do not attend a mainstream school, but often these units are attended by children who have been excluded for behavioural reasons. Under the SEND Code of Practice 2014, these children would be classed as having social, emotional or mental health (SEMH) issues which form the underlying reason for their sometimes challenging behaviour. There are around 400 PRUs in operation. Many are very small, with less than 50 students on roll at any one time. Some children attend a PRU setting on a full-time, permanent basis. For others, it is a transitional placement while the local authority finds them a more permanent school place. For example, a child may be excluded from one school, and placed in a PRU until another school place can be secured.
What is it like to work in a PRU?
Here are some comments received from Axcis contractors after being placed in a PRU job:
"I have never had a teaching job which is so challenging, and yet so rewarding at the same time"
"I decided after a short time that this is not the job for me… I find the confrontational behaviour of some of the students to be too much to handle."
"I LOVE my PRU job. The children are challenging, yet intelligent and engaging. I enjoy the vibrant personalities and chance to encourage them to do something more positive with their lives."
Working in a PRU isn’t an easy ride. Yes, class sizes are small (often 5 pupils or less). Yes, there is less work in terms of marking and lesson planning as a result of this. However, some of the behaviour can be extremely challenging at times, and it can take a huge amount of commitment and patience to work with the children who attend these settings. If you have a short fuse, and get stressed out by pupils who shout, swear and even sometimes have physical outbursts, then a PRU job is probably not the best option for you. However, all teaching roles have their fair share of challenges. Even the highest performing private schools have their own individual pressures – much of which will be results and extra-curricular focussed. PRUs simply represent another point on the education spectrum, and we must remember that all children deserve, and have a right to an education under British law.
How do I know if I'd be suited to a PRU job?
If you answer yes to the majority of these points, then a PRU job may well be right for you. Are you:
- Patient, Supportive and a good listener?
- Able to set appropriate boundaries based on an individuals targets?
- Able to sanction in a non-confrontational way when boundaries are breached?
- Able to de-escalate challenging situations (Axcis can help by offering Team Teach training for this)
- Able to deliver additional subjects where required? (The nature of PRUs mean that many teachers need to be adaptable and deliver more than one subject because pupil numbers do not allow for full-time subject teachers)
Teaching is all about professional development and personal growth. It is unlikely that you would take a PRU job and fit instantly into the role and find it easy (unless you’ve done a lot of this sort of thing before). However, working in a PRU does represent an excellent opportunity for those with an interest in supporting children who might have been raised under difficult circumstances or have mental health issues and who need guidance to learn how to behave appropriately in life as well as in school. It’s an environment which many teachers find stimulating, because they work much more closely with individual students and see far more progress in areas which will be life-changing than might be seen in many mainstream environments. In short, PRU settings can have their fair share of challenges, but they can also be extremely rewarding. This element of the work also means that staff often work much more closely together, forming close professional relationships that can last a lifetime.
Getting a PRU job
Getting a PRU job is sometimes tricky. This is because pupil numbers can fluctuate greatly and as a result, staff are frequently needed at very short notice. This means that agencies are often used to recruit PRU roles because local authorities do not have time to advertise, recruit and do all the background checks required of school staff. Agencies, on the other hand will have this side of the recruitment process in hand and teachers and support staff ready to work on short notice. Agencies can provide an excellent solution to staffing problems in this area.
As the leading supplier of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) staff, Axcis work with many pupil referral units in England and Wales and often have a PRU job or two available in your area. For our latest vacancies, please take a look at our jobs pages. However, do bear in mind that our listings change on a daily basis, so if you do not see a suitable role today, it is well worthregistering with us so you can keep up with our latest offerings, and can be ready to work as soon as the right role comes up. If you have further questions about working in a PRU and would like to talk to one of our friendly, knowledgeable consultants, why not give your local Axcis office a calltoday to see how we can help?