THE head of an Oxford academy has denied removing poorly performing pupils from the school to boost its performance in the GCSE league table.

Sue Croft, principal of Oxford Spires Academy in Glanville Road, Cowley, said yesterday her decision to remove pupils from the roll in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 was in order to teach disruptive students at Include Oxfordshire – an alternative education centre in Oxford.

That move, she said, was taken to help the pupils with behavioural difficulties, and in turn help other students at Spires to strive to achieve more.

Ms Croft said her motives were not to improve the ‘good’ rated school’s position in the exam table.

She said: “One choice would have been to exclude disruptive pupils because of their behaviour but I didn’t want to do this.

“The decision to use Include Oxfordshire was always a temporary measure to make sure these students had proper provision, and to make sure the students remaining had a chance to learn.

“I realised the school’s performance in the league tables probably would go up but that was not the motivation – the intention was to do what was right by the students.”

Ms Croft said she did believe in a “level playing field” and added that she would not remove pupils from the roll again.

The headteacher of the academy, run by the CfBT Education Trust, added that education inspectors Ofsted were aware that some pupils had been removed from the roll when they gave the school a ‘good’ rating in July last year.

She added that the policy had also been revealed to other headteachers in the Oxford City Learning group including Oxford Academy, St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Cheney School, Cherwell School, Matthew Arnold and Wheatley Park.

She said: “A discussion took place and there was no talk of re-drawing the league table. What has happened does not de-merit the qualifications all the students got.”

Oxford Community School in Glanville Road became Oxford Spires Academy in 2011.

The proportion of pupils achieving five or more GCSE A*-C grades including English and maths rose from 31 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2012.

But the group of pupils taking GCSEs in 2011-2012 shrunk from 124 to 98 when 26 pupils were removed from the roll.

Twelve of those 26 pupils were taught instead at Include Oxfordshire, a nearby private alternative education centre also run by the CfBT Trust, and the other 14 were taught elsewhere.

All 18 pupils removed from the roll for 2012-2013 were taught at Include Oxfordshire.

If the results of the 26 pupils for 2011-2012 had been included in results, the academy’s headline figure for A*-C grades including English and maths would have fallen from 58 per cent to 49 per cent. It is understood that none of the missing 26 got five or more A*-C grades including English and maths.

Melinda Tilley, county council cabinet member for children, families and education, said: “There has to be greater transparency.

“I think we need straight figures from schools so that we can congratulate them or step in.”

Steve Munby, chief executive of the CfBT Trust, said in the two years Include Oxfordshire was used as a “good, temporary alternative provision” for some Year 11 students. He added: “This was the right provision for these students, as agreed by the students and parents.

“The use of Include is historical and is no longer current practice.

“There are currently no students off-rolled to any alternative provision for 2013-2014, nor will there be at any time in the future as this is no longer the policy of any CfBT school.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Under no circumstances should a school remove a pupil from its roll on the basis of their academic potential or results.

“All pupils attending a school must be included in the school census return and all schools must follow clear regulations when removing a pupil from their roll.”

Wyll Willis, headteacher at Wallingford School, also an academy, said: “I believe Sue Croft did this for the right reasons.”

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