One in four teachers have witnessed pupils being ‘off-rolled’ typically to inflate performance indicators, according to a recent Ofsted survey collating the views of over 1,000 teachers across England. ‘Off-rolling is the removal of a pupil without a formal, permanent exclusion or the practice of encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll. Crucially, such removal is not legal and prioritises the best interests of the school over the pupil.
The poll also demonstrated concerns that parents with less understanding of the education system are more likely to be pressured to remove their children and pupils with special needs are the most likely to be affected.
One headteacher of a local authority primary school commented: ‘[Off-rolling] happens due to external pressure the school is under, the emphasis on data…[it’s] a better solution to exclusions…it can be done without having exclusion on the record and without months of additional paperwork.’
The majority of the teachers surveyed believed that pupils who have less engaged or less informed parents were more likely to be off-rolled. Often such parents also had lower educational levels or didn’t speak English as their first language.
A Department Head at a secondary academy said: ‘Schools sometimes just railroad parents who don’t know what their rights are and that’s very wrong.;
Just one fifth of teachers who experienced off-rolling said there was any follow-up to check what had happened to the pupils.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector described the survey as ‘troubling’ with schools ‘clearly pushing vulnerable pupils out through the back door’. This survey follows the DfE’s ‘Timpson Review’, which recommended that schools should be made accountable for the pupils they permanently exclude. However, it also warned that tackling off-rolling could result in a rise in formal exclusions.