The chief inspector intervened to downgrade the Ofsted rating of a school found to have off-rolled pupils, Schools Week can reveal.
Inspectors visiting Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent in January were advised by Amanda Spielman (pictured) to rate the school’s leadership and management as “requires improvement”, rather than “good”, after they discovered evidence of off-rolling of year 11 pupils.
The report, which rated the school overall as good, has prompted calls for clearer guidance on what constitutes off-rolling, after it emerged the practice was widespread across Stoke and supported by the local council.
Discovery is the third school identified by Ofsted as off-rolling pupils. It will toughen its stance further from September.
Inspectors said the pupils’ move was “carried out in the best interests of the school rather than the pupils”, which Ofsted defines as off-rolling.
Their main concern was the timing. Ten pupils were transferred to the rolls of alternative providers in early January 2018, before the spring census. It meant their results did not count towards the school’s league table position last year.
Well-placed sources say that Discovery was due to be rated as good across the board, but the leadership and management grade was changed following Spielman’s intervention. Ofsted did not deny her involvement.
Sarah Robinson, the chief executive of Discovery sponsor Alpha Academies Trust, also confirmed to Schools Week that Spielman and Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education, were “all over our inspection and our report and the final judgments that they came to.
“Amanda Spielman personally got involved.”
Stoke Council this week confirmed that it has ended its support for the movement of pupils on to the rolls of alternative providers.
The council previously supported the city’s 13 secondary schools to make such movements, under an agreement forged between officials and the Stoke Association of School, College and Academy Leaders.
Despite initially appearing to back the council’s policy in an interview with Schools Week on Tuesday, Janine Bridges, Stoke’s cabinet member for education, later confirmed it had been abandoned.
She said all secondary schools had been advised of the Ofsted guidance “and we will not support the process of students moving to alternative provision rolls”.
The agreement, seen by Schools Week, said that schools could delete pupils from their home school rolls “if a pupil is registered at more than one school and has ceased to attend the school, and the proprietor of any other school at which he/she is registered has given consent to the deletion”.
Such a move could only go ahead for pupils enrolled to receive full-time education in alternative provision, and with the agreement of parents or carers.
The pupil also must not attend their home school, and not be due to return.
It is this clause that seems to have been used to justify the movement of Discovery’s year 11 pupils, many of whom had been attending alternative provision since year 9.
Robinson said her trust took the view that “if a child had been with a provider for two or three years, then moving roll was about accountability.
“By the time all the paperwork was completed, and because the local authority wanted to keep open the option of returning to mainstream until the last possible moment, the transfer of rolls did not take effect in year 9 when the child changed provision, but at the start of year 11.”
Robinson called for clearer guidance from Ofsted and the government on what schools could and could not do in relation to pupil movement.
“It’s clear what off-rolling is, but the circumstances around when a child might change a school roll, some clarity around that would be helpful,” she told Schools Week. “What we have done is not illegal, but it is perhaps now not seen as the best practice.”
An Ofsted spokesperson confirmed that from September, schools found to be off-rolling were likely to be rated inadequate for leadership and management.