New research has uncovered 55,000 “unexplained” pupil moves in English secondary schools, raising concerns that many of them could have been “off-rolled” in a bid to boost exam results, TES is reporting.
According to the study, unexplained exits have increased both in pupil numbers and proportionally in recent years.
And the research found that a small number of schools had particularly high rates of such pupil exits, with 330 schools accounting for almost a quarter of all unexplained moves.
The Education Policy Institute thinktank, which carried out the study, called it the “most comprehensive analysis to date of unexplained pupil exits”.
Unlike formal exclusions, there is no requirement to record the reason why a pupil has been removed from a school roll. This means it is difficult to establish whether such decisions have been taken by parents or by schools, and whether they have been taken for legitimate reasons.
But the EPI said it had developed a methodology that allowed it to discount pupils who had been removed from school rolls due to family reasons, such as moving house or to a higher-performing school, leaving just the pupil removals that are likely to be instigated by schools.
The analysis found a “high prevalence of unexplained pupil exits”, with one in 12 (8.1 per cent) of the cohort that finished Year 11 in 2017 being removed from school rolls for reasons that were not accounted for by family decisions.
This totalled over 55,300 unexplained pupil exits, and was larger both in pupil terms and proportionally compared to the 2011 and 2014 cohorts.
David Laws, the EPI’s executive chairman, said: “The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing and will raise concerns about whether some schools are ‘off rolling’ pupils.”
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