In the week commencing Monday 23rd of March, the Centre for Social Justice sent out a survey to Alternative Providers (APs) in England asking about their response to Covid-19.
We emailed 322 state-maintained APs and 416 local authority (LA) commissioned APs. Of these 43 state-maintained APs replied and 48 local authority commissioned APs replied before the cut-off of 09:00 on Friday the 27th of March. This equates to 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
Our survey allowed for free text responses. Below we have presented an analysis, grouping the answers into common themes.
What is your school/provider’s most urgent need right now?
We asked all providers to name their most urgent need. Often, providers listed more than one. In this analysis we have made no attempt to streamline the results and when two different themes were mentioned in one response both have been counted.
Funding was most frequently mentioned, particularly in the case of LA commissioned APs.
Please tell us about any additional challenges you are facing:
We also asked providers to list challenges in addition to those they deemed to be their “most urgent need”.
Sometimes providers repeated themselves, providing the same answers as they gave to: “What is your school/provider’s most urgent need right now?”. To account for this, the below graph represents all additional challenges, where repeated answers have been dismissed.
Again, funding was the most frequently mentioned challenge. Notably, state-maintained APs were still likely to mention funding but did not list it as their most urgent need.
Issues relating to school staff were more frequently listed as additional challenges.
Overall needs and challenges
We combined the responses to these two questions to provide a summary of overall needs and challenges.
Is there any information you are struggling to get from the DfE or government?
To ascertain specifically what information APs were lacking we asked: “Is there any information you are struggling to get from the DfE or government?”.
Many providers said that they were not struggling to get information from the DfE or government. Some remarked that they thought there had been too much information.
Others stated that although there had been a lot of information, they believed the guidance issued (specifically relating to key workers and vulnerable pupils) was unclear. At times, they believed the guidance about schools and social distancing to be contradictory.
Some LA commissioned APs questioned if they would be eligible for business interruption support.
Have you been asked/are you providing additional services you would not normally provide?
We asked APs if they were providing additional services.
The majority of respondents said that they had been asked to open for Easter, although not all of them were able to resource such provision.
Others mentioned the need to do additional welfare checks which were beyond the scope of their day-to-day safeguarding.
However, many APs said that they had not been asked to provide additional services. Some of these respondents stated that they expected to be asked to provide additional services in the future.