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Thursday, 16 May 2019 23:27

Off-Rolling and the Unlawful Skinners’ School Registration Policy

Update on Skinners' School Appeals: In spite of the new Admission criteria, I forecast there would be around five successful appeals as in previous years. I now have it confirmed that there were exactly five!

Update on Skinner's School Registration Form (see below). I understand that after this article was drawn to the attention of Governors, the unlawful Registration Form was changed. 

The issue of off-rolling is at last bubbling around official circles after many years of the practice being ignored. Ofsted has now come up with a formal definition although it can still be very difficult to prove, as many of those affected are vulnerable in different ways, reluctant to complain, fearful of the school, or simply do not know the actions are unlawful. 

OFSTED DEFINITION OF OFF-ROLLING
Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without using a permanent exclusion, when the removal is primarily in the best interests of the school, rather than the best interests of the pupil. This includes pressuring a parent to remove their child from the school roll.

It can happen in any type of school, as I demonstrated a couple of years ago, when I exposed the Invicta Grammar scandal which went national and resulted in government being forced to clarify the existing law. Two concerned families recently sent me copies of the Registration Form for new pupils at The Skinners’ School, a super-selective grammar. This unlawfully provides for the Governors to be able to require the removal of any pupil on the recommendation of the Headmaster that it is desirable, explored in detail below!!!!!

A major pointer to off-rolling taking place is a large percentage fall in numbers between the start of Year 10 and January of Year 11 along with, or alternatively, high Elective Home Education numbers (EHE). The importance of the January date is that after this, pupils leaving the school will have their GCSE performance (or absence) counted in official outcomes. Nine Kent and three Medway schools lost between 7% and 14% of their cohort in this way  this year, five of them for at least two years running. 

     Large  Fall in Pupil Numbers indicating Possible Off-Rolling
 
 Yr 10 Sep 2017
- Year 11 Jan 19 
Yr 10 Sep 2016
- Year 11 Jan 18
Yr 7 Sep 2014
- Year 11 Jan 19
Pupil Loss 
% Loss
% Loss  % Loss
Hartsdown Academy 19 14% 8% 22%
Leigh UTC (1) 8 11% 0% N/A
High Weald Academy 6 11% 7% 18%
Waterfront UTC*(2) 7 10% 25% N/A
Cornwallis Academy 21 9% 6% 12%
Brompton Academy* 20 9% -1%  8%
Abbey School 13 8% 4% 10%
New Line Learning 11 8% 12% 17%
Hadlow Rural Community(3) 5 8% 19% -16%
Holmesdale School  8 7% 4% 13%
Hundred of Hoo School* 16 7% 5%  21%

 * Medway School

Notes: (1)  Leigh UTC recruits into Year 10, see below. (2) Waterfront UTC lost these under its previous name and disastrous ownership as Medway UTC, underlining for both schools the UTC problem. (3) The new Hadlow Rural Community School initially proved  attractive pulling in pupils from other less popular local schools, rapidly increasing its PAN from 50 to 75 pupils. Hence the overall surplus. Where are they now going?

As regular browsers of this website will know, I have taken a particular interest in off-rolling, including one method sometimes used by schools identified by Ofsted: ‘As our report shows, some schools, sadly, pressure families to take their children out of school to avoid an exclusion – many parents simply do not want a permanent exclusion on their child’s record’. Oddly, Ofsted makes no reference to the earlier Report by the Children’s Commissioner: ‘Skipping school – Invisible Children’ with which I was involved. Do these organisations not work together in the interests of children? Ofsted also notes that: We know that disadvantaged pupils, those with special educational needs, and pupils with low prior attainment are disproportionately removed from the school roll. Inspectors will ask leaders about who has left and why’. 

My recent article on Elective Home Education looks at many of the issues, and identifies some of the schools most likely to have practised off-rolling. One of these is High Weald Academy which saw an astonishing 6.4% of its roll, by some way the largest proportion in Kent ‘choose’ Home Education and eight times the county average. Ofsted has stated several times previously that it is looking out for off-rolling, so one would have expected a reference to this in the school’s latest Inspection Report, published last month, but nothing!

Similarly for the notorious Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, whose monitoring Inspection Report came out last year, when it had 9% of its Year 11 roll leave between October in Year 10 and January in Year 11. Nothing! Some 150 local families connect for a home schooling support group.   A new headteacher took over in September 2018 and, remarkably, census records show that just one Year 11 pupil has left since then, and two from Year 10. Ebbsfleet Academy, another of the largest offenders in previous years, does not appear in these latest figures, having a net increase of 12 pupils. This probably reflects the rapid development of Ebbsfleet Garden City around it, along with the number of students baling out of Leigh UTC with nowhere else to go and so the real figure is impossible to isolate. One can only wonder how many of the UTC transfers were amongst the Ebbsfleet students, around 30 in number, that previously pulled out of the school to go into Year 10 at the UTC in the first place! What a shambles, but never mind the poor misled pupils, caught up with the UTC promises! However, one also hopes it all indicates a change of policy at Ebbsfleet now with the spotlight upon it.

Skinners' School
Skinners’ School requires new parents to sign up to a Registration Form.  This includes the following requirements applying to their sons:

1)That he shall follow the prescribed course of study and shall remain in attendance at the School at least until the end of the school year (that is the year ending in July) in which he reaches the age of sixteen years;

5) That nothing contained in this form shall preclude the Governors of the School from requiring the withdrawal of our/my son at any time from the School or his transfer to another secondary school if they decide, after considering in any case where they think it to be appropriate, a report from the Headmaster of the School that such withdrawal or transfer is desirable. 

The claim to power in Section Five, giving Governors the right to require the withdrawal of boys at any time, purely on receiving an appropriate report from the Headmaster, is surely amazing and has no place in any school. It not only takes off-rolling to a new level, it is of course completely illegal and unenforceable. Section One is simply foolish as even the most ill-informed parents will know it is not enforceable.

The only way that children can be removed from a school is by permanent exclusion, to be used according to government, only as a last resort relating to behavioural matters. I have raised this informally with the school and I was pleased the headteacher responded. However, whilst confirming that the school would review arrangements at the end of the admission process this is no answer to parents who are unhappy about being forced now to sign a document ostensibly allowing the school to behave illegally, and presumably have done for years. Surely the school needs to act now to remove the illegality.

One can only speculate how many other schools have such illegal clauses in their joining documents or other policies. Parents will feel obliged to sign such documents rather than fall out with the school before their children join but surely many, like my correspondents, will feel extremely uncomfortable about the principle.  

Other Grammar School Off-Rolling
As it happens, and unsurprisingly (for I think the school is simply being naive), there is no census evidence to show that Skinners has ever activated the clauses.  However, a look at  the data for other grammar schools raises considerable concerns about pupils departing at the end of Year 12. In 2017-18 Holcombe Grammar shed an astonishing 30% of its Year 12 pupils, followed by Chatham Grammar Girls with 22%, both in Medway. Then come: Queen Elizabeth’s (13%); Norton Knatchbull (10%); and Barton Court with 9%. 
 
Final Word
(too many of my articles exposing malpractice end this way).
Is there anyone interested in investigating any of these matters?  Under Academy accountability, and every school mentioned in this article is an academy, the answer appears not, although  Ofsted and the Regional School Commissioner are I believe, aware of much of the content of this article. 
Last modified on Tuesday, 02 July 2019 11:50

6 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 05 June 2019 16:03 posted by Richard W

    So Skinners have broken the law. What happens next? PETER: I have just exposed the law breaking. Someone in authority now needs to take it up. My experience of government in such issues is that they will evade taking action until someone forces their hand, as happened with the Invicta scandal. I suspect it will be for the Regional Schools Commissioner if it is drawn to his attention.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 04 June 2019 11:58 posted by Matt

    As I think you article (and others) suggest, some schools are constantly doing things to make their figures look better to the outside world.
    I come back to my point - why is this necessary unless it is addressing an underlying problem at the school? PETER: It is not necessary, it is unlawful. Your assumption of an underlying problem appears based on no knowledge of the school and so would be an unwelcome slur. If you have evidence otherwise please email me with it, so that I can investigate

  • Comment Link Monday, 03 June 2019 20:29 posted by Matt

    As a parent, it suggests to me that Skinners has a significant problem with managing behaviour and low attendance - otherwise surely such action would not be required. Glad my sons are in the non selective system! PETER: What makes you think this is required in the first place. I have certainly seen no suggestion of problems with managing behaviour and overall absence at 3.6% is below the national average of 5.5%. The issues are very different to what you are alleging.

  • Comment Link Monday, 03 June 2019 17:16 posted by Skinners Old Boy

    Astonishing. What arrogance.If Skinners knows that parents will dismiss this out of hand, what is the point? It just puts the school in a very poor light and diminishes Skinners in the eyes of parents and Old Boys.

  • Comment Link Monday, 03 June 2019 17:02 posted by Alistair

    How can they be so thick? Or are they deliberately breaking the law even after you have pointed it out?

  • Comment Link Monday, 03 June 2019 08:51 posted by Jean Gazet

    The Skinner document has no real power. Signing a contract does not make it enforceable. It must be legal and fair. Pressuring parents to sign such a document does not change the law. PETER: Thanks for underlining my point. It doesn't alter the fact that parents can feel pressured by such clauses.

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