The Knowledge

What do we really know about ‘managed moves’?

A new report sheds light on the practice of managed moves and calls for urgent government action to improve local oversight

A new report sheds light on the practice of managed moves and calls for urgent government action to improve local oversight

1 Apr 2024, 5:00

High rates of permanent exclusions gather much media attention and research funding, which rightly focus on their impact on attainment and labour market and health outcomes. Yet many more pupils leave school through alternatives to permanent exclusion known as managed moves.

These are, in theory, agreements negotiated between headteachers, parents and pupils to move the pupil to a new school for a ‘fresh start’. The problem is that we know little to nothing about them.

Schools are not required to record the reasons pupils leave, so we don’t know how many moves occur.

Nor do we know how such agreements are arrived at, or the extent to which parents and pupils have any say in it. (Government guidance says parents must give consent, but there is no way to know if this is freely given or if permanent exclusion is implicitly or explicitly threatened.)

We know certain groups are more likely to be permanently excluded, but we don’t know if the same is true for managed moves.

Conversely, we don’t know if managed moves deliver better wellbeing and educational outcomes than permanent exclusions.

Our new report sheds some light on these questions.

The report finds that, before the pandemic, over 30,000 pupils in secondary school moved schools for reasons seemingly unrelated to family choice or circumstance. According to the minority of local authorities which held data, at least 5,000 managed moves were recorded in the same year. The real number lies somewhere between these two figures.

We analysed all local authority policies surrounding managed moves and found that approaches vary hugely. One-fifth of LAs did not appear to have any guidance for schools. In many areas, LAs were not involved in the process, and moves may or may not have been reported to them.

In a handful, it was clear that a pupil could be excluded if the managed move did not work out. More worryingly, a pupil could be excluded if they did not agree to one, which could constitute an illegal exclusion.

The agency of many vulnerable young people and their parents has been eroded

Pupil and parental preference or needs were factored into decisions in only a minority of areas. Trial periods, during which a pupil remains registered at the home school but is educated in a new setting, range from a few weeks to six months, raising questions about impact on pupils’ sense of belonging.

We found evidence that many managed moves don’t lead to a stable placement in a new school but  begin a process of exclusion from mainstream education. This could include more managed moves, a permanent exclusion or a move into alternative provision. Around 10 per cent of pupils who experienced an apparent school-driven move in secondary finished year 11 in alternative provision, and another 10 per cent were not on a state school roll.

Moreover, many more young people with additional needs or existing vulnerabilities are likely to transfer schools. This was the case for one in five pupils with a social, emotional or mental health issue, compared to one in seventeen of all secondary pupils who finished year 11.

These findings suggest that, in a system meant to centre around school choice, the agency of many vulnerable young people and their parents has been eroded.

It is clear, and has been for some time, that better data and oversight is urgently needed. The scrapped 2022 Schools Bill included a register for children not in school which would have gone some way toward this, although the extent to which parents and carers could be compelled to provide this data remains a question.

We urgently need a central data reporting system which captures pupil exits from school and the reasons for them – something which could easily be added to the list of data items schools currently report.

At the local level, we need measures to ensure that all parties are acting in the best interests of children. This could include fair access panel involvement, monitoring of moves (and outcomes for pupils who experience them), as well as an independent representative of pupils’ interests in decision-making.

Regulatory neglect of these young people is an ongoing safeguarding failure, one that only national government can remedy through new legislation to enable proper local oversight.

More from this theme

The Knowledge

Covid delays release of long-awaited phonics study

Important £1m trial study now due in 2023

John Dickens

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *