Ofsted has been asked to investigate allegations that a multi-academy trust "off-rolled" pupils by moving them out of its mainstream schools into alternative provision to boost results.
Leeds City Council has asked the inspectorate to intervene after Tes revealed that an internal document from GORSE Academies Trust showed that staff considered how taking low-achieving “anchor” pupils off a school roll could improve Progress 8 scores.
The council said last week that it believes that GORSE has followed up on this 2016 report by “off-rolling" pupils from its schools' rolls into a new alternative provision free school which the trust opened two years ago.
Outcomes improved?: DfE probes 'off-rolling' row MAT on pupil moves
But GORSE’s chief executive Sir John Townsley has said that the report was a "theoretical discussion paper" and that none of the "unacceptable" practices that were discussed were then carried out.
He also denied that GORSE had off-rolled pupils and said that movement of pupils from its academies to the Stephen Longfellow alternative provision (AP) school had been done in partnership with the Department for Education.
Ofsted has been carrying out a crackdown on off-rolling – where a pupil is taken off a school’s roll to benefit the school rather than the pupil.
Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for education, said: “We have raised concerns with Ofsted about the internal document which shows GORSE Academies Trust discussing how the removal of anchor pupils would improve Progress 8 scores.
“We have also raised with Ofsted our concerns about pupil movement from GORSE Academies to its alternative-provision free school and the fact that this movement has taken place in January of the last two years. We have asked Ofsted to look into this matter.”
On Friday, Tes revealed that the Department for Education was looking at how pupils had progressed after being moved from GORSE Academies to the trust's AP school.
According to the department, the trust had agreed it would "provide further details of all pupils and case studies to demonstrate the improved outcomes achieved as a result of moving to Stephen Longfellow".
Cllr Pryor has described the GORSE document as “deeply disturbing” and claimed that it showed the trust was moving pupils to boost results.
He added: “I am troubled to see that their motives for this were not in the best interest of the children, but in the best interest of the multi-academy trust.”
When asked about Leeds City Council’s concerns, an Ofsted spokesperson said it did not comment on its inspection schedule.
The spokesperson added: “But as we’ve made clear, Ofsted takes a dim view of off-rolling. When our inspectors uncover evidence of this happening, we make it clear in our inspection reports.”
GORSE told Tes it would not be commenting further on the issue.
When Tes first broke the story earlier this month, Sir John strongly denied GORSE had off-rolled pupils.
He said: “It is correct to say that pupils from a wide range of schools, including schools not within the GORSE Academies Trust, were put onto the roll of the Stephen Longfellow Academy in January of 2018 and January 2019.
"We wholeheartedly refute the suggestion that this constitutes off-rolling and have done this in full partnership with the DfE and ESFA [Education and Skills Funding Agency].
"The movement of pupils onto the roll of the Stephen Longfellow Academy is set out in our funding agreement as a part of our original application.
"Pupils are moved onto the roll of the Stephen Longfellow Academy because it is felt by those connected to the educational provision of the child that it is in their best interests.
"We have compelling evidence that pupils with us at the Stephen Longfellow Academy have done exceptionally well as a result of their time with us; much better than they would otherwise have done. This does not constitute off-rolling."
Tes revealed yesterday that GORSE has agreed to provide evidence to the Department for Education that this pupil movement has improved outcomes for the pupils involved.