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Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:38

Falling Rolls,Year 10 through to GCSE

On Tuesday, The Times newspaper headlined a story about schools removing pupils or encouraging them to leave in the run up to GCSE, followed by two pages of analysis inside the paper. This is an issue I have followed closely in recent years, mainly from the viewpoint of numbers of children being Home Educated and Permanently Excluded, most recently here.

Medway UTC 1

This article explores schools where the roll has fallen way above the norm over this period. On average 2% of Kent children leave mainstream schools in Years 10 and 11, and 4% in Medway, raising the question of why this should happen at all. Surprisingly, the schools losing the most pupils are generally different between 2016-17 and 2017-18, suggesting that none have a consistent policy to remove pupils unlikely to do well before GCSE, although several have extremely high levels of ‘Elective’ Home Education. This is contrary to the examples given in The Times.

For the cohort taking GCSE in 2018, the five biggest losses of pupils were: were: Medway UTC 25%; New Line Learning and Victory (Medway) Academies 13%; Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy 10% and Robert Napier School (Medway) 9% the only school to appear in the lists for both years. In 2017 they were: Orchards Academy 17%; Brompton and Strood Academies (both Medway) 12%; Ebbsfleet Academy and Thamesview School 11%. In all cases that is three or more pupils on average from every class. Below I give a fuller list for each year.

For 2017, the grammar school losing most pupils was  Invicta Grammar with 3%. For 2018, there were five grammars with 2% of pupils lost.

The key date is the January census in Year 11, as pupils leaving after this time are still counted in the GCSE statistics, so there is not such a strong incentive for schools to see them leave. For 2017, I have both sets of data, showing that in some schools, another 2% of the pupil roll leaves in the run up to GCSE. 2018 GCSE results will enable me to update this figure. You will find the 2015-16 Kent figures here, looking in particular at High Weald Academy with its 19% figure, the highest in the county, and a special look at the tactics applied by Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, which show no sign of weakening after yet another new Principal has been appointed, as identified here


Schools with high proportions of pupils leaving
between the start of Year 10 and GCSE
January 2018
GCSE 2017 Jan 2017
Medway UTC (M) 25 Orchards Academy  17 16
New Line Learning 13 Brompton Academy (M)  12 11
Victory Academy (M) 13 Strood Academy (M)  12 11
Oasis Sheppey 10 Ebbsfleet Academy
 11 9
Robert Napier (M) 9 Thamesview  11 9
Hartsdown  9 Duke of York's  10 8
Marsh Academy 9 Robert Napier (M)  10 8
Geenacre (M) 8 King Ethelbert  8 8
St John Fisher (M) 8 Canterbury Academy   8 8
Walderslade (M) 8 Swadelands  7 7
High Weald 7 St Augustine's  7 7
Cornwallis 6 Towers School  7 6
Hugh Christie 6 Aylesford School  7 6

Note: M = Medway school

I am unable at present to draw a firm conclusion as to why so many pupils leave as I am awaiting 2018 data from Kent and Medway. However, my previous article looks at the evidence for 2017, revealing very high figures for families ‘choosing’ Extended Home Education (EHE) for their children from certain schools, with oral evidence of some being encouraged to leave from OAIOS,  and very high permanent exclusion figures for Medway schools. There are also considerable numbers of children who simply disappear from schools without trace.

Individual Schools
This section looks at some of the individual schools in the table above.

Medway UTC is clearly a disaster area as explained in an article I wrote in May which also looked at the failures of the UTC concept in general. With pupils only joining the school in Year 10,  they have found a very poor school as set out in great detail by Ofsted and so it appears that up to a quarter of pupils have clearly realised their mistakes, with many presumably returning to their previous schools.

I have also looked at Ebbsfleet, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey and Hartsdown in an article called ‘Tough Love Academies’ and elsewhere, showing how they operate a pressured environment that sees pupils unable to cope being withdrawn, often with nowhere else to go, so they ‘opt’ for EHE, certainly in the case of Sheppey with active encouragement from the school. Another about the Brook Learning Trust also looks at Ebbsfleet, along with High Weald Academy.

Both New Line Learning and Cornwallis Academies have been struggling for some years, as I have also recorded, to the extent that the Academy Trust which ran them is being taken over next month by the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust, which has recently been supporting both schools. It is fair to point out that both schools, along with Hartsdown, suffer from having part of their intake being somewhat mobile in the first place.

Orchards Academy with the highest losses leading up to the 2017 GCSEs, also features in an earlier article, which highlights that school as one of the top performers at Progress 8, the key GCSE measure, in 2017. Losing 17% of the cohort no doubt helped! Another top performer was the controversial Duke of York’s Royal Military Academy, which lost 10% in 2017. However, in its capacity as a Boarding School primarily for military families, this fall could either be for families moving on for service reasons, or else removing their children from the school because of the controversies. Surprisingly, the consistently highest non-selective GCSE performer, Bennett Diocesan Memorial School, had next highest losses at 6%.

St John Fisher Roman Catholic School in Medway is surely the least popular school in the Authority with 58 Local Authority Allocations this year. This means there are many families taking up places at the school who don’t want to be there, a factor also affecting Ebbsfleet (67), Hartsdown (85), OAIOS (70), and Victory (41, highest Non-Selective Progress 8 performance at GCSE in Medway).

Please note that I have limited data from Medway Council who have resisted providing the relevant information. They have recently been found guilty of refusing to provide data to me, by the Information Commissioner. In spite of instructions from the Commissioner, the Council has failed to provide the data I have provided.


Last modified on Friday, 14 September 2018 11:27

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 29 August 2018 22:47 posted by JJG

    An interesting analysis, however only using percentages can be misleading where small numbers are involved (either those leaving or the size of the cohort they leave). Actual numbers show actual children and give a better picture. Having working in Kent and SE London for 30 years I know many of the schools named and have worked in some, so know the real situation. Pupils may leave a school for several reasons: permanent exclusion, home education (elective due to lack of support, or encouraged due to poor performance or behaviour) or moving location. For this reason numbers as well as percentages need to be looked at. I have no doubt that some headteachers under extreme pressure resort to "discarding" children but others refuse to do this and their results are affected to one degree or another. There are other 'games' also played as a result of the target obsessed environment that has dominated education the the last 10 or more years. The scandal is that many young people in most need of help or support are discarded by schools in a desperate scramble for results. In years to come we will look at this madness and wonder why did we go along with it. PETER: On the previous occasion I quoted numbers instead of percentages, I was criticised for misleading browsers, as numbers alone don't indicate the scale of the problem in particular schools! To use both appears to be overkill. However, I agree that we need to make the point these are real world children whose futures are blighted, which is why I introduced the figure of three per class to suggest the scale. I do have enormous sympathy for headteachers and parents of other children where pupils are disruptive, but most schools come up with strategies to deal with these effectively. Several of the ones I mention clearly take removal of the problem from the school as the easy option.

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