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Monday, 29 June 2020 05:30

Off-Rolling in Kent and Medway Schools before GCSE Registration and in the Sixth Form

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 few years ago when I exposed the Invicta Grammar Sixth Form scandal which went national and resulted in the government being forced to clarify the existing law although I suspect it still continues in a few cases, notably Holcombe Grammar, below.  

A major pointer to off-rolling taking place is a large percentage fall in pupil numbers for a school 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 even with the new Coronavirus arrangements. I have no proof that off-rolling is the key reason for the sharp falls in pupil numbers identified below, but it is a reasonable suspicion. 

Twelve Kent and two Medway schools lost from 7% to 13% of their cohort in this way this year, five of them for at least two years running. 

I have also given figures for the change between Year Seven and Year Eleven for these schools, which, in some cases should certainly be raising questions, as was the case a few years ago with Holmesdale School then under KCC control. This signposted a school falling apart at the seams, although KCC failed to notice, and I am delighted that it now appears on the way back again under different control. Although Ofsted now has responsibility for identifying schools where off-rolling occurs, I have as yet seen no evidence of this in relevant Reports locally. 

Last year I contributed to a National Report by the Children's Commissioner for England, entitled 'Skipping School- Invisible Children', looking at how some schools pressured families into withdrawing their children to undertake Elective Home Education, a major tactic which can lead to off-rolling. I wrote in my previous article on 2018-19 EHE numbers: 'The four highest EHE schools are the same as in 2017-18 and are four out of the top six the previous year, yet no-one appears to question what is going on in these schools'. Three of these also top the table below!

Such a fall can also happen if there is a partially transient pupil body, for example at schools with high eastern European or Traveller numbers such as the top three schools in the list below. Five of the schools below are also in the 2018-19 table. Hartsdown faces fresh problems with a new school opening in Thanet. Waterfront UTC is the new name given to Medway's UTC after its takeover by The Howard School Trust, following an appalling record under the previous management as Medway UTC, and one would expect to see an improvement soon.  

     Large  Fall in Kent and Medway Secondary
Pupil Numbers indicating Possible Off-Rolling
 Yr 10 Sep 2018
- Year 11 Jan 20 
Yr 10 Sep 2017
- Year 11 Jan 19
Yr 7 Sep 2015
- Year 11 Jan 20
Pupil Loss 
% Loss
% Loss  % Loss
High Weald Academy  7 13% 11% 21%
New Line Learning 14 13% 8% 17%
Hartsdown Academy 16 12% 14% 26%
Waterfront UTC*   6 12% 10% N/A
Victory* 13 11% 5% 12%
Malling  13 10% 1% 3%
Towers 16 10% 3% -2%
Orchards 10 9% 4% 14%
Sandwich 19 8% 4% 12%
Brockhill 16 7% 6% 11%
St Edmund's 5 7% -2% 10%
Hadlow Rural Community 4 7% 8% 13%

* Medway School

Noticeably absent from this list are: Ebbsfleet Academy, the worst culprit for several years, following a change of headteacher; Holmesdale School turned around following a controversial management takeover by Swale Academies from Kent County Council, who had sleepwalked it into Special Measures and beyond; and Hundred of Hoo Academy which also appears to be through past difficulties. 

There are nine schools in the table which lost more than 10% of their pupil numbers between starting the school in Year Seven through to January of Year 11 along with: Royal Harbour, 22% (facing a fresh challenge along with Hartsdown); Charles Dickens, 15% (now out of Special Measures, so this is mainly historical)); Hundred of Hoo, 15% (also mainly historical); Greenacre 15%; and Westlands 12%. 

Grammar Schools
At Sixth Form Level the key period of potential off-rolling is between Years 12 and 13, with some students being ‘persuaded’ not to return for their final year. In 2017 I exposed what became a national scandal when Invicta Grammar expelled up to 22 girls for not being on track for high enough A-Level Grades as reported initially here. As a result, numbers have fallen considerably across the board after the government spelled out the law, but there are still several schools that consistently lose students at this time. Whilst I have no evidence that pressure has been applied, the numbers are certainly high enough to cause concern. At the top of the table by a considerable margin over each of the past three years is Holcombe Grammar in Medway which saw a record 30% of its Year 12s depart in 2018. This year’s 15% of students leaving at this time might seem quite respectable in comparison, except that no other school in Kent or Medway lost more than 10%. Holcombe Grammar has been pursuing a completely ruthless approach to ‘improving standards’ over the last few years, mainly by attempting to select and retain boys who will perform well for it. Barton Court was second in two out of the last three years and fourth in 2018. The only other school to feature in the top four over two of the last three years is Queen Elizabeth’s.
Kent and Medway Grammar School Losses
Year 12 - Year 13
  2019 2018 2017
Holcombe 15% 30% 22%
Barton Court 10% 9% 13%
Queen Elizabeth's 8% 13% 2%







Last modified on Friday, 08 January 2021 20:10

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