An education think tank is urging the government to confront the issue of off-rolling with one politician saying it is a ‘national scandal’.

The move by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) comes after figures reveal that more than 49,000 children have, without explanation, stopped their secondary school education.

The institute says it has found that 49,100 youngsters who began secondary school in 2012 in England, that’s one in 12 pupils, had left before 2017, for no reason.

They are categorised as an ‘unexplained pupil exit’.

Also, the figures are much higher than the 19,000 pupils who were estimated by Ofsted to have disappeared from schools every year.

Pupils have been off-rolled by their schools

However, researchers fear that many of these pupils have been off-rolled by their schools and unlike exclusions, there’s no formal legal process for doing so.

This is usually when schools pressure or persuade the parents of academically weak or disruptive children to voluntarily remove them.

By doing so, the school does not then have to do record the reason for the pupil’s departure.

Critics say that after being off-rolled, the pupils can drift into knife crime or gang life.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner says ministers are dragging their heels on what is becoming a ‘national scandal’.

‘The findings are disturbing’

The chairman of the EPI, David Laws, said the findings are ‘disturbing’ and officials should be looking particularly closely at those schools that account for a high proportion of unexplained exits.

Research also reveals that one in three who disappear from school rolls are in the children’s social care system and are being monitored by social workers or are in care. One in eight of those being off-rolled is black and one in seven is said to be ‘economically disadvantaged’.

The report’s author, Jo Hutchinson, said the findings are a ‘worry’.

She added: “We begin to see, for the first time, the full scale of the problem and the research provides evidence on pupil exits.

“This follows reports of pupils been removed by school for a reason that is not in the pupil’s best interest.”

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The data is shocking but not surprising and it’s urgent we move beyond the numbers to analyse the reasons behind the moves and challenge policies which undermine high quality and inclusive education.”

The Department for Education says it has written to every school in England, reminding them of the rules for exclusions.