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Exclusive: 81 pupils 'removed' from academy linked to minister

Numbers 'removed' from Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in eight months after it joined the Inspiration Trust include 38 pupils being home educated

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Numbers 'removed' from Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in eight months after it joined the Inspiration Trust include 38 pupils being home educated

More than 80 pupils have left the roll of an academy in the eight months since it was taken over by an academy trust founded by an education minister

Great Yarmouth High School, which was put into special measures in May 2016, was taken over by the Inspiration Trust in September 2017 and renamed Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.

The school hit the headlines over complaints about the strict behaviour policy introduced by headteacher Barry Smith - including banning the 'Meet Me at McDonald's' haircut - although its stance was later supported by Ofsted following a monitoring inspection in February.

Now, a freedom of information request has revealed that between September 2017 and June 2018, the school notified Norfolk County Council that 81 of its pupils had been "removed" from its roll.

These included 38 pupils the council said had been removed from the roll to be home educated, 32 transferred to another school, and five who had been permanently excluded.

The Inspiration Trust said it was "disappointed that some families decided to move elsewhere but we respect their right to do so".

According to DfE data, Great Yarmouth High had 792 pupils in January 2017. If it had a similar number of pupils when it opened as an academy, it would have lost about 10 per cent of its roll in an eight month period.

Whilst there is no suggestion that there was any encouragement by the school to “off-roll” any of its learners, nationally concerns have been growing about increases in the number of pupils being home educated after leaving mainstream schools.

In February, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator raised concerns about schools encouraging parents to educate their children at home as an alternative to being excluded.

The freedom of information request about Great Yarmouth Charter Academy does not give any information about the circumstances in which the 38 pupils were removed from its roll to be home educated.

The Inspiration Trust was founded by Lord Agnew, who oversees the academies system after being appointed a minister in September 2017.

He resigned as chairman of the academy trust, but remains a trustee.

In April, Lord Agnew’s department launched a consultation on home education, asking “what steps might help reduce the incidence of schools reportedly pressuring parents to remove children to educate them at home”.

Inspiration Trust spokesperson James Goffin said: "These misleading figures ignore more than 70 pupils who have chosen to join Great Yarmouth Charter Academy since September because they and their families recognise the impressive turnaround in behaviour and attendance that means teachers can focus on teaching and improving academic standards.

"We are disappointed that some families decided to move elsewhere but we respect their right to do so.

"There has been a doubling in the number of pupils home educated across the whole of Norfolk in the last six years, and the recent figures for Charter are a reflection of that long-term general trend."

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