The breadth of work covered by three services combined under one authority umbrella has been highlighted to councillors this week.
Ceredigion County Council’s Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), support and prevention service and its lifelong learning and skills service are part of Porth Cymorth Cynnar and are linked to the council’s through-age and well-being programme.
The work of the three sectors was presented to members of the learning communities overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, September 20.
The committee heard that the transfer of the PRU from education to Porth Cymorth Cynnar was done progressively over the academic year 2020-21 and following consultation there has been six teachers and six mentors supporting vulnerable young people in education since this month.
There is a PRU site in Aberaeron and one in Aberystwyth and the aim is to “enable all pupils to return to mainstream education and/or further education, training or employment.”
PRU headteacher Gareth Lewis told the committee that there are around 20 pupils receiving full or part time education at the PRU, 65 per cent receive free school meals, 25 per cent are looked after children, around half have social service involvement and 63 per cent have special education needs statements or a ‘school action plus agreement’.
A recent Estyn inspection found the PRU to be ‘good’ across the board with pupils making “strong progress in their social, emotional and behavioural skills, and their ability to work with adults and their peers.”
Work to meet recommended improvements such as writing and reading standards is underway.
An update on the support and prevention service, made up of multi-disciplined teams, focusing on youth work, support and attainment, community youth work and prevention, highlighted a “substantial problem” of substance misuse by young people.
Service manager Gethin Jones said “a lot has changed in the service recently” and in 2019/20, the service had contact with more than 4,500 young people in Ceredigion via schools and youth groups.
In response to concerns about substance misuse raised by committee chairman Cllr Wyn Thomas, Mr Jones said that substance misuse presented as a “crisis” in some young people but also at the “lower end of the spectrum.”
He added that health and well-being had “deteriorated” during the pandemic and the service worked with other agencies, such as the justice service, to improve consistency of support and prevention, as well as identifying “young people who are open to risk.”
This month 301 individuals in secondary school settings have been supported by the service – an average of 43 pupils in each secondary school and with an average three designated staff located at each site, as well as 63 primary school children
Lifelong learning and skills is made up of Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training, alternative curriculum, vocational provision for schools, Dysgu Bro and the employment support scheme which provide engagement programmes, traineeships, apprenticeships and other access to education, to meet young people’s needs.
Up to August 2021 there were 251 people involved with the service with more alternative curriculum, traineeships and apprenticeships due to start this month, a report to committee indicates.