E-ACT insists it has 'zero-tolerance' approach to off-rolling after Ofsted findings

The sponsor of one of only two schools identified by Ofsted as potentially having off-rolled pupils has insisted it’s “important a light is shone on these matters”.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, told MPs today that two inspection reports have flagged off-rolling issues, with a further report “in the pipeline”.

It was revealed in November that Harrop Fold, the Salford secondary school that featured in the Channel 4 documentary Educating Greater Manchester, had been placed in special measures. Inspectors found year 11 pupils were “deleted from the school roll” shortly before the census date.

It has emerged today that the second school was Shenley Academy, in Birmingham, which was also put in special measures after an inspection in October.

It is important that a light is shone on these matters – right across the sector

Inspectors found leaders removed eight year 11 pupils on the same day in the autumn term in 2017 and were “not able to give a valid explanation as to why this happened”. Half of the pupils had special educational needs or disabilities.

The report added: “This practice suggests ‘off-rolling’.”

David Moran, chief executive of the E-ACT academy trust that runs Shenley, said: “The practice of off-rolling is completely unacceptable.

“Whilst we were obviously disappointed by the Ofsted report at Shenley, it is important that a light is shone on these matters – right across the sector.”

He added the trust, which has 29 academies, takes a “zero-tolerance approach to the practice”, adding the headteacher who oversaw the school at the time of the Ofsted inspection has “moved on as a result”.

“Our whole purpose at E-ACT is to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and to give them the best education possible – sometimes that brings some real challenges.

“But in the face of those challenges, the answer is not to move children on, but to find a way to work with them to switch them back on to education.”

The comments come after a report published by the children’s commissioner yesterday called for stronger measures to tackle off-rolling, amid rises in the numbers of pupils being home educated.

The second case identified by Ofsted related to Harrop Fold. Former headteacher Drew Povey has previously insisted the off-rolling findings related to two or three pupils who had been missed off record due to “administrative errors”.

But Ofsted inspectors said examination results of pupils taken off roll temporarily do not appear in school performance tables. Inspectors added pupils’ safeguarding had also been “compromised by the inappropriate and informal exclusion of pupils and by the deliberate misrecording of attendance”.

Ofsted has identified around 300 schools with high levels of pupil movement in year 11 – suggesting they could be off-rolling.

But Spielman warned MPs at the education select committee today cases aren’t always clear.

“We have also come across schools with high levels of departures following deep and probing conversations around parent mobility and people wanting to avoid prosecution,” she said. “We have to have those conversations to get to a human judgment whether integrity has disappeared.”