A SHADY tactic in which schools remove pupils for no good reason has become 'too common' in Oxfordshire, it has been claimed.

A new government report has fuelled fresh concerns about unlawful 'off-rolling,' suggesting that the prevalence of the practice is increasing nationally.

Ofsted defines off-rolling as: “The practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil.

"Off-rolling in these circumstances is a form of 'gaming.'"


School 'requires improvement' after leadership struggle

The Timpson Review was released by the Department for Education this week to investigate the use of exclusions, and brands off-rolling 'quite simply wrong.'

Councillor John Howson, education spokesman for the Liberal Democrats at Oxfordshire County Council, said governors in the county should 'take note.'

He said: "Permanent exclusions and 'off-rolling' are still too common occurrences in Oxfordshire schools, and governing bodies should take note of the recommendations contained in the Timpson Review.

"All governing bodies, and especially those governing bodies of academies, should take heed and ensure that pupils in high risk groups are not excluded just to improve the profile of a school.

"Exclusions and 'off-rolling' in Oxfordshire really should be a matter of last resort."

He added that adequate funding is 'vital' for schools to be able to provide support for more challenging pupils in their care.


Cash-strapped school receives £250k donation to help pay for urgent repairs

The Timpson review, carried out by former children’s minister Edward Timpson, said of off-rolling: "The government should take action to reassure itself that pupil moves are not inappropriate, or illegal.

"A key opportunity to take action is through the inspections of schools."

Ofsted’s new inspection framework says schools found to be off-rolling will likely to get an 'inadequate' judgement for leadership.

Although it did not explicitly use the term 'off-rolling, Ofsted did raise similar concerns about Northfield School in Blackbird Leys last year.

The report, which rated the special school 'inadequate', stated: "Leaders often use fixed-term exclusions to deal with both disruptive behaviour and more serious incidents.

"There is clear evidence previously of the use of ‘unofficial’ and illegal exclusions that have not been properly logged."

A subsequent Ofsted report for the school, published last month, said exclusions had 'fallen dramatically' since.

A Commons briefing paper published last month said: "In recent years, concerns have been raised about children leaving the school roll for [illegitimate] reasons, for example to ‘game’ the school performance system, or to relieve financial pressure on schools.

"Children who are removed from school for these reasons, perhaps through exclusions or parents withdrawing them from school for home education, are commonly said to be 'off-rolled.'

"The Government has made clear that it considers off-rolling unacceptable and that exclusion for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful."


Transformed Oxford school is oversubscribed for another year

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called for more clarity on exactly how the crackdown on off-rolling would be checked and enforced.

She asked what sanctions would be available and who would be enforcing them.

In response, education Secretary Damian Hinds said off-rolling is already illegal, but admitted some think there are 'shades of grey on what is allowable'.'

He pledged to tighten up the guidance 'so there's far less room for interpretation.'