DfE probes 'off-rolling' row MAT on pupil moves

Exclusive: GORSE academies expected to provide DfE with further details of pupils it moved to alternative provision
18th October 2019, 5:04am


DfE probes 'off-rolling' row MAT on pupil moves

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A multi academy trust accused of "off-rolling" has agreed to provide the Department for Education with details of the impact that its controversial pupil moves had on outcomes. 

GORSE Academies Trust was accused of off-rolling by Leeds City Council after Tes revealed an internal document that showed how trust staff had discussed moving low achieving "anchor students" off academy rolls into alternative provision (AP)  to boost Progress 8 scores.

The trust's chief executive Sir John Townsley has denied off-rolling pupils and said the internal report was a theoretical discussion and that no unacceptable practices were carried out.

Exclusive: MAT accused of acting on 'off-rolling' plan 

Background: How a MAT looked to improve progress scores

DocumentMAT report hows trust looked at removing low achieving pupils from school rolls

However, he has acknowledged that pupils were moved from the trust's academies into its AP school in January 2018 and 2019 and said this was done "in full partnership with the DfE". 

The DfE has now told Tes it was "aware that some pupils from the GORSE Academies Trust might move to Stephen Longfellow school [the trust's AP] , provided it was in their best interest and with their parents full support".

And it revealed that when a DfE regional schools commissioner  met with GORSE at the start of this month they were assured the moves were in pupils' interests. 

According to the department the trust has agreed it will "provide further details of all pupils and case studies to demonstrate the improved outcomes achieved as a result of moving to Stephen Longfellow".

And a  department "education expert" visit to the trust's alternative provision this term will include an examination of "pupil movement and progress". 

GORSE has said it will not provide any further comment on the issue. 

The idea of removing  so-called "anchor" pupils to improve  a school's Progress 8 score was one of several options examined in the internal trust document.

The  report, from 2016,  reveals that the approach of staff looking at the issues was to "come at the problem with no preconceived ideas or ethical considerations; we simply want to test curriculum models to see which tend to generate the highest P8 scores for the academy". 

Ethics were to be considered by the trust's board at a later date. 

Leeds Council's executive member for education Jonathan Pryor described the report as  deeply disturbing. He said the authority had raised serious concerns with GORSE over their "off-rolling" of pupils, particularly before GCSE exams.  

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are clear that it is against the law to remove pupils on the basis of academic results and any school that does this is simply breaking the law.

In an initial statement to Tes about the report, Sir John said: "It is correct to say that the paper, which dates from the point at which the new Progress 8 measure was being introduced, and which has been sent through to the Tes, was a theoretical discussion paper which sought to examine a range of acceptable and totally unacceptable practices which were at that time taking place across the country.

"We fully accept that as a part of that theoretical exercise we looked at how such practices could impact upon our own work as a trust. At no point did we implement any unacceptable practices arising either from this theoretical discussion paper or in our work thereafter."

Denying the accusation of off-rolling he added: "It is correct to say that pupils from a wide range of schools, including schools not within The GORSE Academies Trust, were put onto the roll of the Stephen Longfellow Academy in January of 2018 and January 2019.

"We wholeheartedly refute the suggestion that this constitutes off-rolling and have done this in full partnership with the DfE and ESFA [Education and Skills Funding Agency]. The movement of pupils on to the roll of The Stephen Longfellow Academy is set out in our funding agreement as a part of our original application."

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