Ofsted has told its inspectors to ensure that they always make clear where they find off-rolling after admitting that some inspections had identified this practice taking place in schools but failed to call it out in the report.
The inspectorate said this resulted in some schools then issuing press releases afterwards stating that off-rolling was not found because Ofsted did not use the specific term in its reports.
In a new update to its inspectors, the watchdog says they must ensure that if they find off-rolling taking place it is specifically described as such in the inspection reports.
It adds that it does not “want to leave any ambiguity as it acts in the interests of pupils and parents” so it is introducing a standardised form of wording.
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Tes has previously revealed that Ofsted was facing questions in 2019 over why some inspections appeared to have found off-rolling – according to the watchdog’s own definition – but then not described it as such in the reports.
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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.”
The inspectorate adds that: “Off-rolling in these circumstances is a form of ‘gaming’."
Ofsted vowed to crackdown on the problem of off-rolling around three years ago and has been identifying cases of it happening in schools through its inspections.
But it has now admitted that there have been cases "when off-rolling, according to our definition, has been identified, and lead inspectors have not specifically mentioned the term ‘off-rolling’ in reports".
In an update to inspectors, it adds: "Some schools have issued press releases stating that off-rolling was not found because Ofsted did not use those words."
Ofsted has not named the schools or said how many reports identified off-rolling but failed to name it.
The watchdog said that the reports in question will not be amended.
A spokesperson said: “We’re unable to amend reports once they are published.
“Off-rolling has been addressed in previous reports but may have been described in different ways. These changes will ensure the wording is standardised in future reports.”
In its update to inspectors today, Ofsted says “it is clear that off-rolling, according to our definition, is unacceptable.”
It adds: “The definition is broad because our research and inspection experience show us that the same mechanism can be used in acceptable and unacceptable ways – for example, appropriate/inappropriate managed moves, use of alternative provision.”
Inspectors have been told that reports must always use the following set phrase to refer to off-rolling:“This practice constitutes off-rolling according to Ofsted’s definition.”
It adds: “This should be accompanied by context and nuance as the lead inspector sees fit, but the presence of this phrase means that parents, schools and others can be in no doubt about what we have found.
“If the school’s poor practice around pupil movement is associated with moving pupils from the school roll on to the roll of alternative provision (remembering that this is not the only way in which off-rolling occurs), we should use the following wording or similar: 'Inspectors asked leaders to show how the movement of some pupils from the school roll [and/or from dual registration] on to the roll of the alternative provision/s was in the pupils’ best interests. Leaders did not have convincing explanations as to why they had not followed the Department for Education’s guidance or why pupils had been removed from the roll. This practice constitutes off-rolling according to Ofsted’s definition.'”