Ofsted is facing questions about why an academy’s decision to remove students from its roll in Year 11 without demonstrating that this was in the students’ interests has not been recorded as off-rolling.
The SEND Action Group has queried Ofsted’s findings from an inspection into the East Point Academy, in Lowestoft, Suffolk, which is run by the high-profile Inspiration Trust.
The group has asked why the removal of students from the school roll was not classed as off-rolling in the report, when a seemingly identical practice referred to in another report published the same week resulted in Holte School, in Birmingham, being downgraded for off-rolling.
A spokesperson for the SEND Action Group said: “In two different inspection reports published last week, Ofsted have found that schools had taken pupils who were in alternative provision off their rolls and were not able to demonstrate that this was done in pupils' interests.
“However, Ofsted has only identified off-rolling as taking place at one of these schools and not the other. Well, what is the difference?”
Ofsted fears of student off-rolling
The SEND Action group has questioned Ofsted on social media about the difference between the two reports but not received a response.
Ofsted defines off-rolling as: “The practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil.”
It inspected East Point Academy because Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman was concerned about pupil movement and potential off-rolling taking place.
The Ofsted report into East Point Academy found that some students were taken off the school roll in Year 11 and that leaders could not show this "was in pupils’ best interests, or why they had not followed the statutory guidance on the use of alternative provision and kept pupils dual registered for the purposes of the census”.
However, the report did not describe this as off-rolling. It also noted that this practice no longer took place at the school and that students had been returned to the school's roll.
When asked if it considered that East Point Academy had carried out off-rolling, an Ofsted spokesperson said: "The report speaks for itself and we have no further comment to make."
Inspiration Trust – first set up by academies minister Lord Agnew, who has since cut ties with the muti-academy trust – has said that Ofsted did not find evidence of off-rolling taking place.
A spokesperson said: “In its East Point inspection, Ofsted made explicitly clear that there is no evidence of off-rolling, and that Inspiration Trust intervened to improve administrative processes around the student roll.
"Inspiration Trust had already recognised improvements were needed and these were made, including stopping the Suffolk-wide practice around AP school rolls.
“We took the inspection extremely seriously and the issue of inclusion. We have gone above and beyond Ofsted’s recommendations to ensure that inclusion is centre stage at Inspiration Trust, for instance holding a trust-wide inclusion conference and putting in place a new inclusion strategy. We will continue to provide support and challenge to our schools to ensure that we all have the very best practice.”
In the inspection report into Holte School, published last week, Ofsted said: “Leaders could not give inspectors a clear reason why they remove these pupils from the school roll in Year 11.
"There is no evidence that this practice benefits the pupils. It means that information the government publishes about the school is not accurate. Ofsted refers to this practice as ‘off-rolling’.
"It should not happen.”