The Office of the Schools Adjudicator has raised concerns about schools encouraging families to educate their children at home as an alternative to being excluded.
Today’s annual report reveals that four local authorities reported “significant increases” in the number of children being educated at home, with concerns that “this was not always in the children’s interest”.
It comes amid increasing worries about "off-rolling", where schools remove pupils from their books in a bid to improve their exam results and league table position.
Last year, Ofsted called for its inspectors to crack down on schools that are “gaming the system” – and the Children’s Commissioner for England called for schools that off-roll pupils to be fined.
Today’s annual report says: “There were disturbing references to children being removed from schools to be educated at home with the encouragement of the school as an alternative to exclusion.”
It says that one local authority referred to “schools off-rolling learners to EHE [elective home education] when the families have no means to educate in order to protect their results records and school performance”.
The report also refers to a council with almost 2,000 children who were registered to be home educated, which told the Office of the Schools Adjudicator that “the majority have had some form of local authority intervention with a large proportion known to social services”.
The issue had also been raised during the Commons Education Select Committee’s current inquiry into alternative provision.
In November, Philip Nye of Education Datalab told MPs that off-rolling was a “grave concern”, and raised concerns about whether local authorities had the resources to protect the best interests of the child.
He added: “Previously, they would have had educational welfare officers who, when a child left the roll of a mainstream school, would go and inquire where they were and what was happening with them.
“An open question for us is: do they have the resources to do that anymore? Certainly, anecdotally, we are hearing that maybe they don’t, so is that an issue?”