Ofsted inspectors have said they were unconvinced by a multi-academy trust’s explanation for why pupils were taken off the roll of mainstream schools in Year 11 after they moved into its alternative provision.
A new inspection report raises concerns about why some pupils who attend an alternative provision academy run by GORSE Academies Trust were taken off their original school’s roll with this often found happening in key stage four.
Ofsted has rated the Stephen Longfellow Academy, in Leeds, as "good" overall and "good" in all the main inspection judgements.
However, the largely positive report does raise concerns about why some pupils are taken off the roll of their original school.
Exclusive: MAT accused of acting on off-rolling plan
Inspections of the Stephen Longfellow alternative provision school and Farnley Academy, which is also run by GORSE, took place after the local council claimed the MAT was off-rolling pupils from mainstream schools into its alternative provision.
The accusation was made after Tes uncovered an internal document that showed GORSE staff discussing how the removal of low achieving “anchor students” from school rolls could increase progress 8 scores.
The document from November 2016 says that issues surrounding taking pupils off a school’s roll were “tricky” but that this would become simpler once it opened the Stephen Longfellow Academy – its own alternative-provision free school. The school opened the following year.
GORSE’s chief executive Sir John Townsley has denied that off-rolling had taken place. He said that “at no point did we implement any unacceptable practices" from the “theoretical discussion paper” seen by Tes.
Now, Tes can reveal that Ofsted 's inspection report into Stephen Longfellow Academy is very positive about the education the school provides but does question the way pupils are taken off their original school roll.
Inspectors say the majority of pupils were dual-registered, meaning they were on the roll of the commissioning school and The Stephen Longfellow Academy.
However, it added: “Many pupils move exclusively onto the roll of The Stephen Longfellow Academy during their time at the school. This move to single registration often occurs during key stage 4.
"Leaders informed inspectors that this is in line with the original free school application to the Department for Education.
“Inspectors were not convinced by the school’s explanation of why moving to single registration is in the best interests of each pupil.”
The report praised the quality of education and the leadership and management of the school along with the personal development and behaviour and attitudes of pupils.
It said: "Pupils study a wide range of subjects. All teachers expect pupils to do well. By the end of Year 11, pupils sit a range of examinations. The careers guidance that they receive is excellent.
"The majority of pupils move on to college or a job when they leave. Pupils are proud to go to The Stephen Longfellow Academy."
Farnley Academy's report downgrades the school from outstanding to requires improvement and also raises concerns about the way pupils are taken off its roll after going to Stephen Longfellow.
A spokesperson for the GORSE Academies Trust said: “We are delighted that today’s Ofsted report for our alternative provision, The Stephen Longfellow Academy, is so positive, with inspectors rating it as Good in all areas. Ofsted speaks of how quickly pupils’ behaviour improves after they join, and how the school wants the very best for the children and young people who attend it."
“We also recognise that Ofsted says we have not been sufficiently conscientious to ensure that our record-keeping and administration processes around how we support some of our most challenging pupils have been of the standard both we and Ofsted expect. We got this wrong and we apologise."