One in four teachers say they have witnessed ‘off-rolling’ in their schools in England with league table pressures being a key driver, an Ofsted survey has found.

The teachers told researchers that the illegitimate move was usually used in a bid to artificially boost their school’s performance.

Off-rolling is the practice of pupils being removed from the school’s roll so their league table rankings and exam results can be manipulated.

However, 75% of teachers say they have not heard of or seen the practice at their school.

Researchers found that some teachers report that those parents who are seen as not being well-educated or are an ‘easy touch’, are being approached informally by the school and told that it was difficult for the child to remain. The idea is that parents then agree to home school their child or moving them to another school.

‘School leaders deplore off-rolling’

The Association of School and College Leaders’ general secretary, Geoff Barton, said: “The majority of school leaders, in our experience, deplore off-rolling.

“The findings, nevertheless, are worrying and we support any moves to put an end to off-rolling.”

The survey found that while just 24% of teachers said they had seen off-rolling being practised, another 50% said they knew of it.

The key driver for the move, say the teachers who were interviewed, is over league tables which was the number one issue leading to off-rolling as schools feel the pressure from parents, Ofsted and the Department for Education.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “While not all schools are off-rolling, these are troubling findings. Teachers say that some are pushing vulnerable pupils out the back door with little thought for their best interests and next steps.”

Sanctions for those schools found to be off-rolling

Ms Spielman said that a new inspection framework that starts from September will include sanctions for those schools that are found off-rolling pupils and will rate the school’s leaders as ‘inadequate’.

The Ofsted survey comes in the same week as a review from Edward Timpson, a former education minister, stating that off-rolling by schools ‘is simply wrong’.

He described off-rolling as a rare occurrence.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “The review by Edward Timpson on exclusions practice highlights the good, widespread practice in using exclusions and confirms that a small minority of schools are off-rolling pupils.”

She added that the Department is committed to holding the schools accountable for excluded pupils so the youngsters ‘do not fall through the cracks’.