Data re possible off-rolling won't necessarily trigger inspection

Janet Downs's picture

Inspectors must decide if exceptional pupil movement is 'lawful'

Inspectors must discuss concerns about potential ‘off-rolling’ with school leaders during an inspection, Ofsted says. 

The inspection data summary report used by inspectors will show ‘where there are exceptional levels of pupil movement between Years 10 and 11’.   Inspectors need to decide whether these were ‘lawful’ removals done in best interests of the pupil or ‘unlawful’ where the school's interest was put first.

Unlawful off-rolling is 'gaming'

Ofsted's definition of off-rolling makes it clear that  permanent exclusion following the proper procedure is not off-rolling.  Neither are house moves or parents deciding (without coercion) to home-educate their child.

Unlawful off-rolling is ‘removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school…Off-rolling in these circumstances is a form of “gaming”.’

Doesn’t appear exceptional movement alone will trigger an inspection

It doesn’t appear that data showing exceptional levels of pupil movement between Years 10 and 11 will automatically trigger an inspection.  This likely means that outstanding schools where there is exceptional movement will remain exempt from inspection unless exam results fall or substantial number of parents complain or a whistleblower comes forward.  Similarly, schools rated good would wait until a routine short inspection   If exam results improve or remain stable and no parents complain then it's likely some schools will still be able to put the school's interest before pupils'.

The only way to eradicate off-rolling is for exceptional levels of movement between Years 10 and 11 to trigger an inspection.  It’s not clear this will happen.

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Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 21/09/2018 - 15:26

You are right Janet. Are you surprised that OfSTED are not being pro-active in investigating this, given that Academies and Free Schools are the biggest culprits?

Me neither.

Brian Lightman's picture
Fri, 21/09/2018 - 15:54

I am the last person to condone the kind of off-rolling you are writing about but I fear that triggering an inspection on the basis of data would not be the answer. I support numerous schools who have high levels of mobility for reasons completely beyond their control. Many of them have enough to contend with without having Ofsted descending on them. What I would recommend is effective scrutiny of a census return which provides accurate data with follow up of any suspicious trends with a request for explanation. Only when a reply was unsatisfactory should an inspection be triggered. The real problem here however is, though the government expresses indignation at these practices, they know that some of their favourite schools engage in them.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 21/09/2018 - 16:10

Brian - thanks for your comment.   I take your point - the last things schools with genuine high mobility wants is the sword of Ofsted hanging over their heads.  But an inspection triggered by exceptional movement between Years 10 and 11  (and it's only this movement, not mobility during all years that is included in off-rolling) needn't be a full one.  It could be like the ones triggered when there are concerns about, say, safeguarding.  If the visited school gave unsatisfactory reasons for losing so many pupils between Years 10 and 11, then this could trigger a full inspection.  If, however, the school showed there were indeed genuine reasons for losing such pupils, then a letter absolving them from accusations of off-rolling would be placed on Ofsted's website.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 21/09/2018 - 16:25

Surely what we have lost is Local Authority oversight and registration of all schoolchildren. In Barrow we used to have a brilliant team of Education Welfare Officers working out of the District Education Office, long demolished for retail outlets. Our EWOs checked all school registers every week to chase poor attenders, but they would also have picked up off rolling, illegal exclusions and would have got the parents' side of the story as well as the schools. EWOs were always involved in school transfer discussions. Never have they been more needed than now in local cultures where foreign trips for child marriages and FGM are common.

Brian Lightman's picture
Fri, 21/09/2018 - 19:21

Yes I suppose I just feel that having Ofsted publishing something in this way raises the stakes. It is a bit like a capability/disciplinary skipping the informal stages and going straight to the formal before any investigation has taken place. As the other comment received points out the point about EWOs is well made. There is a real gap in provision in many areas.

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