Two more schools rapped by Ofsted for off-rolling

Two more secondary schools have been accused of off-rolling by Ofsted, as the inspectorate insists it has the ability to root out the controversial practice.

Falmouth School in Cornwall has been rated ‘inadequate’ after inspectors found it sometimes removed pupils against the advice of other agencies. The Sutton Academy, in Merseyside, was rated ‘requires improvement’ after Ofsted found it off-rolled under a process agreed by the local council and other school leaders.

Five schools have now been accused of off-rolling in inspection reports since Ofsted promised to crack down on schools with unexplained high levels of pupil movement at the end of last year.

In its December annual report, Ofsted said it had identified 300 schools with exceptionally high levels of pupil movement that could be off-rolling. It has refused to publicly name these schools, but has begun alerting councils and academy trusts to schools it has concerns about.

The Sutton Academy, sponsored by St Helens College, was inspected in May. Inspectors found “significant numbers” of pupils had been removed from its roll in the past three years and warned “this was not in pupils’ best interests”.

The report said 12 pupils who had been attending alternative provision were removed from the roll in January and transferred to the AP’s roll, meaning they would not be represented in published information about Sutton Academy.

Inspectors said the “process is well established at the school and has taken place for many years,” adding that more Year 11 pupils had been off-rolled last year, and a large number of those affected were disadvantaged pupils or those with special needs.

Off-rolling ‘agreed with local authority’

The report added: “The process of off-rolling pupils has been agreed with the local authority and with other school leaders within the local authority. Leaders and a representative from the local authority could not provide inspectors with any convincing reason for this practice.”

It said leaders agreed there was “no sound justification for off-rolling” and “indicated” the practice would stop “immediately”.

However, Alison Sherman, Sutton Academy’s principal, told the St Helens Star that Ofsted’s definition of off-rolling is an area of “huge disappointment and controversy” and described the inspection as a “political decision and one that is being used to change local practice”.

She also said the school’s policy, which was mirrored in other schools in the area, was for alternative provision education to begin as early as year 8 but the pupil would not be taken off the school’s roll until year 11.

St Helens council has said the moves were done in “good faith, transparently and regulated by common agreement” between schools and alternative education providers with “strict criteria”, but it has since told school to keep such pupils on their roll.

During the inspection of Falmouth School, part of the Falmouth MAT, also in May, inspectors found, in some cases pupils were removed “against the wishes of the family, the advice of the local authority and the professional judgement of other agencies.”

Sue Godzicz, interim chair of governors at Falmouth School, said the school was “disappointed” with the judgement but accepts “that lessons have to be learnt and that work needs to be done”.

Ofsted: We can adequately inspect off-rolling

Schools Week has previously revealed concerns that Ofsted can’t properly investigate off-rolling by solely speaking to school leaders.

Writing for Schools Week, Dan Owen, specialist adviser for school inspection policy at Ofsted, said inspectors “carefully weigh up all of the evidence” before deciding whether a school is off-rolling.

Although he said school leaders often have “rational, logical and convincing explanations” for pupils leaving and can show their decisions were “reasonable”, he said that if explanations “don’t add up” then inspectors are likely to say a school has off-rolled pupils.

“In the last year, we have identified five schools where off-rolling was taking place. Our inspections of these schools have reflected on the differing impact this practice has on the lives of the children and young people affected.

We have carefully evaluated the level of care and attention schools have given these young people

“We have carefully evaluated the level of care and attention schools have given these young people before and after they left the school roll, and inspectors have considered this in their judgements.”

Other schools criticised by Ofsted for off-rolling pupils include Harrop Fold in Salford and the Shenley E-ACT Academy in Birmingham, both of which were put in special measures.

Schools Week revealed in March that Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, directly intervened to ensure that Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent’s leadership and management rating was downgraded after inspectors discovered evidence of off-rolling. However, the school still obtained an overall rating of ‘good’.

Like in St Helens, it turned out the practice was agreed with the council and used by other school in the region – but it has since been ended.

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  1. “Schools Week has previously revealed concerns that Ofsted can’t properly investigate off-rolling by solely speaking to school leaders.”

    Schools Week was right then and the evidence strongly suggests that this still remains the case. There is also no explanation from OfSTED or the DfE as to why the continuing off-rolling scandal is overwhelmingly concentrated in Academies. See

    • Mark Watson

      Surprisingly your comment links to your website. The phrase I picked up on in your diatribe was “I leave it to the reader to judge the objectivity of such comments.”

      Funnily enough, this came just after the bit where you discussed how the introduction of academies “was carried out by the same Labour government that had shortly before supported and assisted the US in its violent policy of political regime change in Iraq” and described Ofsted as “the shock troops of regime change”.

      Pretty much told me all I needed to know about the objectivity of the author.

        • Mark Watson

          Forgive me, I don’t mean to be rude but I really don’t need to read another article which exhorts me to buy your book.

          You are quite clearly an opponent of academies. Nothing wrong with that. But you are such an opponent of academies that you somehow manage to twist any argument or story into “this shows why academies are bad”.

          Your linking of academies to the US system, presumably you mean Charter Schools, is a classic dog-whistle to the faithful. As is your regular references to the “marketisation” of the education system.

          But of course there is a fundamental difference between academies and charter schools and it’s profit. If the operators of charter schools take in more money then they spend on education then they get to take that money out of the education system and spend it on fast cars and big houses. Academy trusts can’t do that. They’re charities, whose assets can’t be distributed to their Members or Trustees.

          And yes, academy trusts are part of the ‘free market’ in the sense that they are forced to live by the mantra of “you can’t spend what you don’t have”. Guess what, the vast majority of people think this is a reasonable idea. It’s real life and it affects local authorities in exactly the same way, other than they have a much bigger pot and can borrow from Peter to pay Paul.

          But of course all of the talk about academies vs LEAs is totally redundant, because that’s just the structure of schools. You seem to be mostly preoccupied with the knowledge-based vs child-centred argument and I don’t have anything like enough knowledge to wade into that arena. That’s an argument for more informed people to have, and I’m prepared to bet there are “experts” who disagree with you (as that’s the nature of experts). But it’s the Government of the day that ends up making the decision, and whether you like it or not that’s democracy. The Government elected by the people will decide on the approach, and the chosen system will be followed by academy, free school, LA school etc. So the structure doesn’t affect it.

          Unless of course what you mean is that each LEA can make its own decision about how schools teach. Of course if every LEA can make their own mind up, then every LEA can be different. What a system that would be, with knowledge-based and child-centred being just two of the possibly dozens of different systems adopted nationwide. And of course every time there’s a change in the colour of the LA then they can change horses. You think there’s chaos and uncertainty now, if this happens today’s system would look positively glacial.

          • The deep problem with marketisation and competition is that it inevitably causes the focus of attention to shift from the interests of the student to the interests of the school. What we are seeing with increasing regularity is how the pursuit of the interests of Academies and their MATs damages individual students. This is the root cause of the off-rolling scandal, which the DfE and hence OfSTED are doing their best to cover up, while pretending to crack down on what has been going on for years.

            It is a generic issue that always arises when public services are privatised. Academy MATs are private commercial organisations fed millions by the DfE without proper accountability or transparency. See the writings by the persistent exposer of malpractice, Janet Downs, on Local Schools Network.


            As for the differences between our Academies and US Charter schools, they are far more blurred than you maintain. This is because MATs are frequently involved in other commercial edu-business activities, which can, in effect, sell their ‘products’ to themselves. These sorts of activities demand far more regulatory activity than they ever get from the DfE.

          • Mark Watson

            Just so much polemic rubbish.
            Janet is a serial exposer of bad practice within academies, but even Janet agrees that bad practice goes on in local authorities. She doesn’t report on it because she leaves that to Private Eye.
            The real nugget of your misinformation though is when you say “MATs are frequently involved in other commercial edu-business activities, which can, in effect, sell their ‘products’ to themselves”.
            I think that most MATs are formed by schools, with none of the Trustees or Members having anything to do with commercial organisations selling services to that MAT. You clearly think differently, and frequently say so. So please furnish us with the figures. How many MATs are there which “sell products to themselves”.

            Come on, give us a number.

  2. A Brown

    I wonder if anyone can explain to me how OFSTED can carefully weigh up all the evidence without speaking to the children and young people who have been off-rolled and their families. In my innocence, I would say that if you don’t talk to the people who’ve left the school then you haven’t gathered all the evidence.

    Similarly, any con artist can tell you that ‘rational, logical and convincing’ doesn’t mean that someone is telling the truth, so we’re left with a system where the best liars win and the inconvenient, expensive children all too often lose.

    • B Badger

      I absolutely agree. On the surface, there appears to be very little difference between what Ofsted inspectors were told at Magna Academy and Falmouth School, yet a world of difference in how what they were told was interpreted and reported by the respective teams. Unless inspectors have the authority to speak to those who have potentially been off-rolled, I cannot see how inspectors can make evidence-based decisions on this contentious issue.