By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Policy & Research)

Much has been made in the media over recent months about how statistics are being misused to represent school funding, to impact on levels of achievement and to ‘game’ league tables – but just maybe there is something in it.

Although such practices cannot be condoned, is it any wonder that, due to the ever-increasing burden of accountability, and the brutal funding reductions that most schools are experiencing, they look to reduce the impact that less able students, violent and disruptive pupils or even those with notable special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) will have?

Last year, the Education Select Committee published its report on alternative provision, exclusions and ‘off-rolling’, Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions (see the November issue).

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has warned that schools ‘off-rolling’ pupils can have dire consequences and leave young people vulnerable to gangs.

To be clear (Ofsted’s response to Forgotten children (pdf)):  

‘off-rolling, when school leaders deliberately attempt to remove pupils from the roll without an offi cial exclusion, is often unlawful and always harmful to pupils’.

The advantages to schools in an ever-competitive landscape are manifold, but boil down to reductions in risk – risk of low grades, risk of poor Ofsted inspection, risk of poor behaviour leading to parents taking their children elsewhere and bringing about a reduction in funding – the list goes on. Of course, there are many disadvantages too, not least being  the loss of diversity in the school, a potential loss of funding and the devastating impact on the pupils themselves.

Forgotten children makes it clear that as the accountability regime, Department of Education policy and Ofsted all have a part to play in causing the issue, they too must take responsibility in finding solutions.

Off-rolling is a particular concern because, while there are perfectly legitimate reasons for pupils to leave a school’s roll, including through formal exclusion, there are too many children falling through the system. A notably high proportion of pupils/children seem to move in the middle of examination studies, but only around half reappear on another centre’s register. Many of these unregistered children are reported as being educated at home or in ‘alternative provision’ – settings which can be unregulated, unregistered and unmonitored.


Schools and the Government can and must do more to protect all children and to safeguard their future.

In November 2018, the DfE updated its Analyse School Performance (ASP) resource, so that school leaders can log in and create ‘what if’ scenarios:

'Data Management is now available in ASP. This allows school named users to create “what if” scenarios and explore the impact on the measures by removing one or more pupils from their phonics,
KS1, KS2 or KS4 data so they can see how their data looks in different scenarios.’

For example, schools can see how their data would change if certain pupils, or groups of pupils, were not included in the data set. Imagine the perfect cohort....

It is Voice’s view that this feature not only makes it easier for schools to game the system, but it actively encourages off-rolling at a time when pupils are most in need.

Take part in our survey

Voice is calling for there to be more research into this issue. To try and assess the situation as it affects Voice members, we have launched an online Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision Survey and we hope to bring you the results in a future edition.

Update (May 2019)

Results of Ofsted survey on off-rolling



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