‘Off-rolling happens in Scotland, too’

Informally removing pupils from school rolls is a practice associated with England but also happens in Scotland, says academic

‘Off-rolling happens in Scotland too’

An academic has told Tes  that off-rolling – a practice more commonly associated with England – also happens in Scotland.

Ian Thompson, an associate professor of English education and director of PGCE at the University of Oxford, is co-principal investigator on the Excluded Lives Research Team, which is examining the consequences of school exclusion and how approaches differ in the four home nations.


Investigation: Surge in children being home-schooled

Related: Unlawful exclusion of autistic pupils 'widespread'

Background: Off-rolling - how big is the problem in schools?

Figures: Just three pupils permanently excluded in Scotland


He spoke to Tes for a wide-ranging feature due to appear in tomorrow’s magazine, exploring why rates of permanent exclusion, in particular, are diverging north and south of the border.

While full of praise for efforts in Scotland to drive down exclusions, Dr Thompson said that off-rolling – where a pupil is removed from the school roll without a formal process, or where parents are encouraged to remove their child, perhaps with a mind to home-educate them instead – was also taking place north of the border, albeit on a smaller scale.

He said: “Off-rolling refers to various practices, some legal and some fairly nefarious, whereby young people are removed from the school register. That can be by moving to a virtual school, being given really minimal hours of schooling, or by elective home education suggested by the headteacher or the school staff. Off-rolling takes place in Scotland – but it is not on the same scale [as England].”

In 2018, Tes Scotland revealed that there had been a 50 per cent rise in the number of pupils being home schooled in five years.

Home-education advocate and founder of Scottish Home Education Forums Alison Preuss, said the rise was largely being driven by schools’ inability to properly support children with additional needs.

Dr Thompson continued: “There’s a fine line when it comes to the legality of [home schooling]. A parent or carer can of course opt to home educate but where it is suggested by a headteacher the moral compass shifts. As a parent it would be quite difficult to push back against a school that was saying, ‘I think it would be better if you home-educated.’ They are telling you quite clearly your child is not welcome in that school.”

Scottish research published in 2018 by three charities showed that autistic children were missing out on their education due to unlawful exclusion – when a child is sent home but not formally excluded – and the inappropriate use of part-time timetables.

The survey showed that 28 per cent of families had experience of their autistic child being placed on a part-time timetable in the past two years and 85 per cent said their child did not receive support to catch up on work they had missed when out of school.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories

Teacher sitting at desk, writing school reports

15 tips for effective report writing

Reports are high-stakes documents, read by senior leaders, parents and pupils alike. Yvonne Williams suggests how to make yours meaningful

Yvonne Williams 26 Feb 2020
Learning support assistant sits at computer with pupil

LSAs: underpaid, undervalued and irreplaceable

They are the school dogsbodies, facing an impossible workload for far too little pay. Yet schools could not function without learning support assistants, says Colin Harris

Colin Harris 26 Feb 2020