Off-rolling is illegal – time to take strong steps to stop it

Janet Downs's picture

Rise in number of disappearing KS4 pupils

Off-rolling, whereby secondary schools exclude pupils likely to lower an overall pass rate, is illegal.  Schools can only exclude pupils for disciplinary reasons.

But there’s been a rise in the number of key stage 4 pupils disappearing from school rolls before GCSEs, Schools Week reports. 

 19,000 pupils didn’t progress from year 10 to year 11 in the same state school in 2016/17, Jason Bradbury, Ofsted’s chief statistician. found.   Many would have moved to another state -funded school but ‘around half’ didn’t appear on the state school census.

Some of the lost pupils could have moved to independent schools, Bradbury said.  Others could be home-schooled.  But some may have ‘ended up in an unregistered school or dropped out of education entirely’.

London particularly affected

‘A higher proportion of schools in London are seeing movement of pupils compared to other areas of the country,’ Bradbury wrote.  And a  Schools Week investigation dated March 2017 using figures from Education Datalab   revealed as many as 10% of pupils disappeared in year 11 in some London secondaries.

Academies more likely to lose pupils: LA schools more likely to accept them

 ‘Academies, particularly those in some multi-academy trusts, appear to be losing proportionately more pupils than local authority schools. Conversely, local authority schools seem to be taking on proportionately more pupils,’ Bradbury said. 

Off-rolling could get worse, says Ofsted chief

Chief HMI Amanda Spielman told Radio 5 yesterday that off-rolling ‘could get worse’.  Ofsted was investigating this ‘worrying’ question to decide ‘what, if anything’ Ofsted could do.

DfE policies contribute to off-rolling, said cross-party MPs

‘Off-rolling is in part driven by school policies created by the Department for Education’, MPs on the Education Select Committee said in July.  ‘The Department cannot wash its hands of the issue, just as schools cannot wash their hands of their pupils.’

Progress 8 incentivises exclusion

The Education Select Committee concluded that Progress 8 incentivised exclusion.  It deterred schools from retaining pupils ‘classed as difficult or challenging’.

The excessive emphasis on results has negative effects including gaming and deterring pupils likely to depress a school’s overall score.  The 2018 Ofsted report into teachers’ attitudes found four in ten secondary teachers felt their school valued league table position more than education quality.  

Off-rolling is illegal, says DfE

In response to the Education Select Committee’s report, School’s minister Nick Gibb said off-rolling was ‘unlawful’.  But he then handed the responsibility for tackling it to Ofsted.

Schools which off-roll should face consequences

Schools won’t be deterred from off-rolling by sending a warning letter.  If allegations of off-rolling are proven, schools should face appropriate consequences.  These could include removing heads, governing bodies or trustees and possibly barring them from being involved in education.

Far better to scrap stringent accountability measures

If accountability measures contribute to an atmosphere which encourages bad practices, then it’s time to look at these measures.  It’s counterproductive to measure education quality by high-stakes results.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 29/08/2018 - 11:41

It is surely an issue for the Child Protection departments of Local Authorities. The practical problem is that LAs are so underfunded that they lack the capacity (and in some cases the interest) in undertaking what I always thought was a statutory responsibility.

Then, of course, the government is committed to moving any educational responsibilities of LAs to Academy MATs and their apologists, School Commissioners.

The consequences should not be a surprise.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 29/08/2018 - 12:32

I was fogetting about the vital role of the Education Welfare Service, which no longer appears to exists in Cumbria. Barrow-in-Furness had its own team, based in what used to be the prestigious office of the Area Education Service, now long demolished with only its Art Deco facade remaining, behind which lurk some struggling retailers and a Costa. 

The local EWO team were excellent and effective in addressing traditional concerns like poor school attendance, but also parental disputes with schools and pupil welfare issues. No child moved school in Barrow without EWO involvement. The senior local EWO was also a parent of students at our school. 

The EWO service was required to 'sell itself' to the newly created Academy schools in Barrow. Unsurprisingly there was little or no take up. The last thing Academies want is expert LEA staff 'poking about'.

They are a sad loss.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/08/2018 - 14:35

EWOs (nicknamed 'kidnappers' in our area) are sadly missed as are LA-funded careers officers.  These officials did valuable work and relieved teachers from chasing absent pupils or giving careers advice for which they weren't qualified in any case.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/08/2018 - 14:58

Kent Independent Education Advice has an article about high number of pupils who are 'elected home educated' from certain schools and academies in Kent and Medway.  Two of the academies have featured on this site before: Oasis Isle of Sheppey which was taken over by Oasis after its former sponsor Dulwich College admitted it didn't have the expertise to run a state school (see here)  and Ebbsfleet Academy (see here).  

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.