Ofsted is alerting local authorities and academy trusts to schools which could be off-rolling pupils, despite refusing to publicly release the information.
The inspectorate told Schools Week it “cannot solve the problem of off-rolling on our own” and is working with councils and academy trusts to highlight schools with “unusually high” pupil movement.
Ofsted’s annual report, released in December, said the watchdog had identified 300 schools with high pupil movement that suggested possible off-rolling.
However, Ofsted has refused to publicly name the schools as it could “lead to speculation about when such schools will be next inspected”.
But a spokesperson for Ofsted said its regional teams “highlight some schools with high levels of pupil movement as part of our regular discussions with local authorities and multi-academy trusts”.
“It’s for the LAs and MATs themselves to decide how they use this information.”
She added high pupil movement “does not necessarily mean that a school is off-rolling” and that this will be judged at inspection.
In April a report from the Education Policy Institute found nearly 50,000 year 11 pupils were removed from the school system in “unexplained” moves in 2016-17. In May, an Ofsted survey revealed a quarter of teachers have witnessed off-rolling and two-thirds of these believe the practice is on the rise.
There are also concerns over how Ofsted can adequately inspect off-rolling without speaking to parents of pupils who have been moved from a school’s roll.
Stephen Tierney, chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable think tank, said Ofsted needs to clarify what it is looking for.
“Off-rolling is the question of whether schools are inappropriately manipulating their cohorts. You can’t solve that by having a meeting and saying ‘did you know?’. Because we do know. You’re likely to already know your own town’s data.
“I don’t think there’s any point to it. They’re using all the wrong mechanisms.”
He added that off-rolling is “largely linked to performance tables” and said: “Having a meeting won’t solve it, you’ve got to do something around accountability.”