Schools ‘railroad’ vulnerable parents into off-rolling, say teachers

Ofsted-commissioned survey find that most teachers think parents need more information and support about off-rolling

Martin George

Off-rolling research commissioned by Ofsted revealed teachers' concerns about the pressure some schools put in parents who don't know their rights.

New research has revealed teachers’ concerns that schools “railroad” vulnerable parents who do not know their rights into off-rolling their children.

Ofsted commissioned today’s study to better understand the extent of off-rolling, the illegal practice where pupils are removed from the roll to benefit the school rather than the child.

Researchers from YouGov carried out a survey of a representative sample of 1,018 primary and secondary teachers, and 14 in-depth interviews with teachers who have had direct experience of off-rolling.

Your guide: Timpson Review at a glance  the key points 

Analysis: What Timpson will really mean for school exclusions

Opinion: Off-rolling is unethical, inappropriate and beyond repugnant

The report says that “throughout the telephone interviews, examples of parents being pressured into off-rolling their child emerged”. 

It finds that schools would most commonly tell parents that SEN provision at another school would better suit their child, and that this was sometimes “used to leverage out a pupil with behavioural issues who also has low academic attainment”.

And it says some teachers spoke of “fear-mongering”, with the schools painting a worst-case scenario for their child’s future if they remained at the school.

The report outlines particular concerns about the types of parents most likely to see their child off-rolled.

It says: “Most believe that pupils who had less engaged and/or less informed parents were more likely to be off-rolled by schools. 

“Some spoke about how it was easier to remove a pupil with parents who had less understanding of the education system and their legal rights. Often these parents also had lower education levels and/or were EAL [English as an additional language].”

In one interview, a department head at a secondary academy said: “Schools sometimes just railroad parents who don't know what their rights are and that's very wrong... At my previous school, a few times parents got educational lawyers in and the school would get very scared at that stage...”

In the YouGov survey, 56 per cent of teachers thought parents needed more support and information about off-rolling. Teachers and school governors were both chosen by 35 per cent.

On Tuesday, the long-awaited Timpson Review of school exclusions suggested that pupils who move into home education could be given a “right to return” period, during which they could go back to their school.

Former education minister Edward Timpson, who led the review, said he had seen situations where schools suggested to parents that they home-educate their child as an alternative to permanent exclusion.

He said a right to period would let the school, parents and local authority "reflect on whether that’s the best setting for that child”.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.



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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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