The education select committee chairman, Robert Halfon, has demanded answers from Ofsted on off-rolling after accusing the watchdog of “chickening out” of properly flagging the problem in inspection reports.
The MP asked Ofsted’s chair, Dame Christine Ryan, or chief inspector Amanda Spielman, to write to the committee explaining why some reports have not mentioned off-rolling by name, despite inspectors finding the practice taking place.
During a committee session today, Mr Halfon highlighted a Tes report about an admission by Ofsted that, on some occasions, inspectors have found evidence of off-rolling in schools but not referred to it as such in their report.
This has led to the schools in question issuing press releases stating that off-rolling was not found – even though it had been.
Mr Halfon said: “The Tes report said last week that, in some cases, its found the practice taking place in schools, ‘off-rolling’ but has not described it as off-rolling? Why is that?”
Dame Christine replied: “I think that they [inspectors] have described it, the fact that children are not attending, but I think they have not used the phrase ‘off-rolling’. That is my understanding.”
Mr Halfon replied: “But the problem is that schools then feel that they have not been called out for off-rolling.
Off-rolling is a terrible practice and Ofsted need to both call it out for what it is and deal with it.— Robert Halfon MP -Working Hard for Harlow- (@halfon4harlowMP) September 14, 2021
As I said in the @tes report, this is deeply worrying: https://t.co/sqczuKaSHG pic.twitter.com/Ui55D64V7u
“What I don’t understand is that you were talking about not being showy and actually doing stuff – she [Amanda Spielman] has made huge play, rightly in my view, about off-rolling – and then, when it comes down to it, has actually chickened out of calling it what it is.
“This should be a Ronseal issue. Off-rolling, does what it says is on the tin. It’s off-rolling and it should be identified.”
He added: “I would be grateful if you or the chief inspector could write to the committee and explain to us why off-rolling isn’t being called out, given that she [Ms Spielman] has made such a big thing about it.”
Dame Christine said: “I think this is what is behind the latest guidance for inspectors, that it will be referred to in a consistent way.”
An update for inspectors, published last week, told them to always use a standardised form of words when referring to off-rolling.
The watchdog defines off-rolling as removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal permanent exclusion, or by encouraging a parent to remove their child when this is “primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil”.
Inspectors have now 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.”