German pupils swell free school’s roll

– As EU citizens, they’re entitled to be here, says Parkfield school
– ‘Increasing numbers at census time is unethical,’ says finance head

A free school in the south of England that filled spare places with German students for up to six months has denied recruiting pupils abroad to gain additional funding.

But Parkfield school in Bournemouth says that it will be “very happy” to repeat its offer of places to students on short placements in future.

The school included the German students in its autumn 2014 census, according to full governing body minutes seen by Schools Week. The government uses this October census to determine funding for the following academic year.

The minutes show that principal Terry Conaghan “was pleased that the temporary placement of the German students in year 10 had been a very successful project” and that the school planned to recruit “this type of student” again next year.

He explained that a drop in secondary numbers of the all-through school was “largely due to the German students who were only on the roll for a short time”.

Previous minutes, from July 2014, reveal that the school had a number of conversations with local companies about having “foreign students on roll at Parkfield for a set period of time”.

Secondary school vice-principal Matt Thurstan said: “If they are on the roll for a year then they are part of our census and would create some funding for the school.”

But school spokesperson Sam Hanson insists that although the language in the minutes might suggest a proactive drive to bring in foreign students to bolster funding, that was not the case.

“The school was approached, as were the majority of secondary schools in Bournemouth and many other schools throughout the country, to support projects for students from the EU to spend up to six months in this country,” she said.

“As EU citizens they are entitled to attend school here. They did not take the place of any local student as places were only offered where the school had capacity. At no point did Parkfield refuse any student.

“As with this year, Parkfield will not be actively recruiting EU students next year but, if approached and if we have the capacity, we will be very happy to consider them again.”

The governing body minutes show that in October 2014 there were 12 new starters in year 10, pushing pupil numbers up to 38 from the 26 in year 9 the year before.

Schools Week asked the school how many German students were included in the census, and if it had received funding from the Education Funding Agency for them, but the school had not responded as the paper went to press.

Micon Metcalfe (pictured), a school business director in south London who also trains education leaders, said: “Children from the European Economic Area have the same right to be educated as UK citizens. It follows that such children would be funded in the same way as UK citizens, that is, the funding is in arrears in the period following the child’s inclusion on the school census.


“If they are on the roll at the time of the census it will mean they (the school) have higher numbers and their funding will be for that. So from that sense it is not illegal. But if a school is actively seeking short-term students from Europe with the sole purpose of increasing numbers on roll at census time, then I would consider that to be unethical.”

An Ofsted report published last month said Parkfield required improvement. The school is temporarily located in a former office building ahead of a planned move to a controversial new site next to the runway at Bournemouth airport.

The Department for Education declined to comment.


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  1. There are always two sides to a story.

    It will be interesting to see how the school deals with its GCSE league table position. The number of students used in the calculation of average GCSE score is linked to the census of pupil numbers. If 30% of year 11 are German students recorded on role at the census, they should be included in the average GCSE score calculation. If they do not actually take any GCSE exams because they have gone back to Germany, this will have a disastrous effect on the GCSE results data. It would force the school into being “Requires Improvement”. One way round this would be to ensure that the German students are not admitted into year 11. I guess the school will have worked this out and made sure that German students do not enter a year group that will impact on GCSE result calculations. If it has not worked this out, get ready for a change of leadership.

    Another effect of large numbers of transient students is the effect on those students permanently in the school and their teachers. If 30% of your class are not going to take any exams, this has a negative effect on learning and teacher morale. Teachers do not want to be regarded as providing a cheap baby minding service for private foreign language schools.

    However, even with with the boost to 38 students in a year group, one has to wonder how it is possible for any school to provide a full range of courses at GCSE level. Without huge subsidy from somewhere it would not be possible. The numbers do not stack up. So I guess, when you are desperate you try anything.

    • Data Geek

      The cohort figure used for school performance measures comes from the January census in year 11. The article states they were on roll for the October census in year 10.

  2. Janet Downs

    There’s more to this story than EU pupils in English schools. Most EU children are here with their parents. Presumably the pupils at Parkfield were not. This raises questions about pupil welfare and who pays for their boarding. Parkfield is not a boarding school but the pupils have to be housed somewhere. Who pays for this? Who receives the money? Who checks and monitors where the pupils are living? Is it the local authority or the school? If the former, are local taxpayers footing the bill? If the latter, then where is the money coming from?

  3. I would be surprised if the students were on roll for more than a few weeks. I would also be interested to see the timetables and registers – did they actually attend Parkfield at all? Money will also have passed to the efl school, no doubt. Is that reasonable?