Leaders at an academy run by a high-profile trust could not show why removing pupils from the school roll in Year 11 was in their best interests, an Ofsted report into "potential off-rolling", has found.
Inspectors also raise concern about leaders’ “flimsy” work to understand why some pupils were choosing to leave East Point Academy to be home educated after the figures rose steeply.
The Ofsted report also reveals that Inspiration Trust chief executive, Dame Rachel de Souza, had admitted that some of the figures for pupils choosing to be electively home educated “were too high”.
But it says there is no evidence that senior leaders or the trust encourage pupils and their families to leave the school.
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Inspectors went into East Point Academy in Lowestoft, Suffolk, because chief inspector Amanda Spielman was "concerned about issues raised with Ofsted about pupil movement and potential off-rolling".
Their report raises questions about why pupils who attended alternative provision were sometimes removed from the school roll when they reached Year 11.
Inspectors said leaders had told them they were following locally agreed practices to remove pupils from the school roll.
However, the report says that “leaders could not show how this was in pupils’ best interests, or why they had not followed the statutory guidance on the use of alternative provision and kept pupils dual registered for the purposes of the census”.
The report says that leaders know that these processes “were not exacting enough”. But it says they have now changed their approach and this practice no longer happens.
Ofsted reports that leaders at the academy now make sure that any pupils attending alternative provision, including those attending full-time, remain on the roll of both the school and the alternative provider.
It adds: “The few pupils previously taken off roll have since been reinstated.”
Ofsted said it was only recently that leaders at the academy had reflected more closely on the reasons why pupils chose to leave the school to be home educated.
The report says: “The proportion of parents and carers opting for EHE [elective home education] rose steeply in 2017-18. Inspection evidence confirms that the school’s records for pupils moving to EHE in 2017 were weak.
“Leaders’ interrogation of why parents were opting for EHE was flimsy, meaning leaders were unable to adapt their provision to better meet pupils’ needs. Documentation from the trust confirms that it was aware of this steep rise.”
Ofsted said that a subsequent audit by the trust highlighted the lack of rigour in the school’s processes for monitoring pupils transferring to EHE.
It said the Inspiration Trust had since taken action to monitor EHE and clarify actions to take when parents opted for this.
The report adds: “In terms of the number of pupils electing to be home educated, the chief executive officer said, ‘We knew historically that it was not where it needed to be. Data doesn’t lie; some of these figures were too high’.”
The school was rated as "good" at its last inspection.
The monitoring report published today said that the safeguarding at the school was effective.
Ofsted has vowed to crack down on off-rolling through its new inspections. The watchdog has defined off-rolling as being the removal of a child from a school’s roll when this is done in the interest of the school rather than the pupil.
An Inspiration Trust spokesperson said: “The report from Ofsted explicitly makes clear that there is no evidence of any off-rolling. We were aware that some administrative processes around families who opt to home educate their children needed to tighten up and we have already taken action to address this, which Ofsted recognises.
"As a result, the proportion of families choosing elective home education is reducing. We have also taken steps to improve our administrative processes to ensure that when students are being educated in alternative provision, that they continue to be registered on our roll as well as the site where they are being educated day-to-day.
“We were pleased to see that Ofsted recognises the importance that we place on inclusion and that it is front and centre of our agenda, including on staff training. As Ofsted also notes, many improvements have already been made, and we have a clear programme of training to ensure that we meet our ambition of excellence in inclusion.”