What are the rules? Ofsted's off-rolling confusion

Why is the similar removal of pupils from school rolls described as 'off-rolling' in some reports but not others? Ofsted's inconsistencies in full:

John Roberts

An in depth look at the inconsistencies in the way Ofsted reports on off-rolling.

Ofsted has vowed to crackdown on off-rolling through its new inspections but is facing questions over the inconsistency of its findings.

Critics have asked the inspectorate why the seemingly identical removal of pupils from secondary schools is being condemned as being off-rolling in some reports but not others.

The controversy centres on schools which have been taking their pupils who attend alternative provision off their rolls in year 11.

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What is off-rolling?

Ofsted identifies off-rolling as the removal of a pupil from the school roll when this is done without a formal exclusion and is in the interests of the school and not the pupil.

In many of the first inspection reports where off-rolling has been identified this has involved a school taking a pupil off their roll – often in year 11 - after the child has been attending alternative provision and not being able to demonstrate that was done in the pupils’ interests.

However Ofsted is now facing questions about why it describes this practice as off-rolling in some reports but not others.

Here is what the inspection reports say.

Sutton Academy, Merseyside. 

Found to be off-rolling. Rated as requires improvement.

Inspected under Ofsted’s old inspection framework in May last year, the report said: “For the past three years, leaders have removed a significant number of pupils from the school’s roll during Year 11. This was not in pupils’ best interests. This constitutes off-rolling by Ofsted’s definition.”

The report said these were pupils who were taken off roll after attending alternative provision.

Discovery Academy, in Stoke.

Found to be off-rolling. Rated as good.

This was one of the first findings of off-rolling during an inspection under Ofsted’s old framework in January last year.

The report says: “Leaders have transferred pupils from the school’s roll during Year 11, when this was not in the pupils’ best interests. This constitutes off-rolling according to Ofsted’s definition. The practice ceased during the inspection.”

The pupils in question were attending alternatve provision.

Despite the off-rolling finding the school was judged to be good overall. 

Ormiston Denes Academy, in Lowestoft.

Found to be off-rolling . Rated as inadequate.

This academy was criticised for off-rolling of pupils who had previously been dual registered with a pupil referral unit.

The report from an inspection in June this year said: “The decision to remove these pupils from the school’s roll at the start of Year 11 was taken in the best interests of the school rather than of the pupils. This constitutes ‘off-rolling’ according to Ofsted’s definition. This process is well established at the school.”

The report also said that the lead inspector confirmed with the local council that the school was following local practice rather than statutory guidance which says that pupils should remain dual registered.

East Point Academy, in Lowestoft.

Pupils were found to have been taken off roll but this was not described as off-rolling. The school remains good.

The school run by the high profile Inspiration Trust had a monitoring inspection last year because chief inspector Amanda Spielman was said to be concerned about reports of  off-rolling.

The report says: “Up until summer 2019, pupils who had attended alternative provision were sometimes removed from the school roll when they reached Year 11."  The report said some parents had requested this to have a single point of contact but for others reasons for them being removed from the school roll "were less clear". 

It adds: “Leaders say that they were following locally agreed practices to remove pupils from the roll.

"However, 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.”

However the report does not conclude that this was off-rolling.  

Holte School, in Birmingham.

Found to be off-rolling. Downgraded to requires improvement.

Inspected under Ofsted’s new framework, the school was downgraded from outstanding to requires improvement.

The report says: “A small number of pupils study away from the school. Leaders remove some of those in Year 11 from the school’s roll. They should not do this. This is the reason that leadership requires improvement.”

The Farnley Academy, in Leeds.

The report says pupils were removed from the roll but does not describe this as off-rolling. The school was downgraded to requires improvement.

Ofsted inspected this school after a Tes investigation revealed an internal document which showed staff from the GORSE trust which runs the school discussing how removing low achieving anchor students from their roll could boost progress 8 scores.

The Ofsted inspection said  that some pupils from the school "are moved onto the roll of the trust’s alternative provision".

It adds: "Leaders could not convincingly explain why it was in each pupil’s best interests to move to the roll of the alternative provision, particularly during Year 11."

However it did not describe this as off-rolling. 

Ofsted: 'We don't have a single set way of describing off-rolling.'

In relation to both the  East Point Academy and the Farnley Academy inspections and the questions over inconsistency an Ofsted spokesperson added: " Our school inspection handbook says that where off-rolling is a form of gaming, it is wrong.

"When inspectors find that school leaders have removed a pupil in the interests of the school, and not the child, they will call that out in their reports.

"Off-rolling is not a key judgement and inspectors do not have a single, set way of describing it. Instead they will describe the individual circumstances they found in a school – as is the case with our reports about these two schools."

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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