Schools should be judged on pupil inclusion metrics such as exclusion rates, alongside attainment results, to deter harmful practices such as ‘off-rolling’, a think tank has said.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has today published a research paper offering new methods to measure pupils’ inclusion based on admissions, attendance and exclusions.
The paper, supported by the National Education Union (NEU), calls for school networks such as academy trusts, federations, dioceses and other local authority schools, to be judged against inclusion metrics as well as those concerned with attainment.
EPI argues the current sole focus on pupil progress and attainment has “serious limitations” and can lead to exclusionary practices such as ‘off-rolling’ and vulnerable children missing out on school places.
The paper suggests that data driven metrics can “point to areas of best practice and highlight areas which need improving”.
Bobbie Mills, the paper’s author added: “An effective school group must meet the needs of all pupils in the communities it serves, which is why our paper proposes a new measurement of school effectiveness that also considers pupil inclusion.”
To be inclusive, an effective school group should; have an intake which “broadly reflects the characteristics of its local communities”, support pupils to “pursue an appropriate quality education within the school”; and effectively support disadvantaged and other vulnerable pupils.
So, what could the new metrics include?
EPI has split the proposed metrics into three categories; school choice and admissions, attendance and exclusion, and pupil achievement.
Odds ratios for pupils with certain characteristics
EPI proposes a system of comparing the odds of a pupil with certain characteristics against another local pupil who does not share that characteristic, when applying to and being accepted to a school in a certain school group.
Metrics would be produced for pupils on free school meals (FSM) against non-FSM pupils, for pupils of Asian, Black African, Black Caribbean and White ‘Other’ backgrounds separately, compared with White British pupils, for SEND pupils with and without an EHCP, and for looked after children.
The paper suggests producing two separate odds ratios, one focusing on the background of those who apply to the school, and one on how a school chooses applications when oversubscribed.
EPI states a score under one would indicate a school has fewer pupils with the characteristic of interest than would be expected given its location.
Rates of absence, exclusion and unexplained exits
The report warns there is “little transparency” around how exclusions and other pupil mobility measures are used.
Therefore it suggests introducing metrics which would measure the rate of persistent absences, the rate of repeated fixed term exclusions and the rate of permanent exclusion linked to persistent disruptive behaviour.
An average termly rate of “unexplained exits” should also be produced, the report states.
Attainment gaps and expected standards
In order to track schools’ progress towards closing attainment gaps, EPI proposes a metric to measure attainment gaps of disadvantaged pupils at key stage 2 and 4.
Outcomes of disadvantaged pupils in a school network will be compared to outcomes of non-disadvantaged pupils nationally as this provides a “fixed reference point” for all school networks.
Disadvantage gaps could also be considered alongside overall pupil attainment, EPI states.
With the percentages calculated and compared for disadvantaged pupils and all pupils at primary and secondary level.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said performance measures which highlight inclusion would be “beneficial”.
But warned: “Unfortunately, schools often feel that performance tables are deeply unfair so it is vital that any new measure has the confidence and support of the sector rather than feeling like another stick with which to beat schools.”
EPI is seeking feedback on the proposals via a new consultation until March 2022 before a final report is published next summer.