OFSTED has expressed its concerns that nearly 13,000 pupils are apparently missing from schools’ league tables despite their being enrolled in the year before.
One national newspaper has investigated and says that schools have excluded their underperforming pupils in the months before GCSEs to help themselves perform better in the tables.
The investigation found that nearly 7,000 pupils this year have sat exams in pupil referral units, which is nearly double the number from last year.
Ofsted says it is concerned by the investigation’s findings and is launching an investigation and has identified 300 schools with high drop-out rates. They add that as many as one in four GCSE pupils in some schools have been removed from rolls.
‘Off-rolling apparent in some secondary schools’
Ofsted’s chief operating officer, Matthew Coffey, said: “We are concerned over the scale of off-rolling that is apparent in some secondary schools. It’s not acceptable to use exclusion for boosting school performance.”
Expelling pupils is seen as a last resort and for schools to remove a student to help boost results, commonly known as off-rolling, is illegal.
The investigation by The Times found that there were 539,844 year 10 pupils attending state schools in 2016, with just 526,956 having their results included in school league tables a year later. That’s a fall of 12,888.
The numbers being removed before the exams in the two years previously was 9,237 and 9,136, which leaves 31,261 pupils dropping out of official statistics since 2014.
However, the newspaper points out that pupils relocating to non-state schools and moving overseas account for a proportion of these figures.
Their study also found that 4,175 pupils were placed in pupil referral units in the months before the exam season began this year.
‘The school’s right to exclude pupils’
Mr Coffey added: “While we support the school’s right to exclude pupils who disrupt others’ ability to learn, particularly those who exhibit threatening or violent behaviour, it’s never acceptable to use exclusion for boosting school performance.”
He added that the organisation is also carrying out further research to better appreciate what is a ‘worrying trend’.
The issue of off-rolling has caused concern before with the Children’s Commissioner for England calling for fines to be imposed on schools that ‘game the system’.
The commissioner, Anne Longfield, told one newspaper last December that it was becoming clear that some schools are removing children from their rolls in the belief they will get better results.
‘Unofficial or informal exclusions are unlawful’
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Unofficial or informal exclusions are unlawful, and we contacted schools last year to remind them of exclusion rules. Any school off-rolling on the basis of academic results is breaking the law.”