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Monday, 10 April 2017 19:29

Kent Pupils vanishing from schools before GCSE; including Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey

This article looks at the practice of off-rolling in Kent secondary schools, whereby some schools encourage some pupils to leave the school before GCSE. This may be an attempt to try and secure better GCSE results for the school.Last month, Ofsted’s Director of Education asked his Inspectorial team to look for Inspection evidence as to whether schools are off-rolling students before GCSEs are taken, which will in future count against them in any Inspection judgement.

The schools with the highest number of off-rolled students by number or percentage before the 2016 GCSEs are: Sittingbourne Community College and Westlands School (both part of the Swale Academies Trust); Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey; Charles Dickens School; and High Weald Academy. Pent Valley School, at that time being managed by Swale Academies Trust has now closed.

I also look more closely at the influence of Pupil Referral Units on this situation, especially at the Swale Inclusion Unit, and issues at Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy.  

Isle of Sheppey Academy 2

The grammar school with the highest number of off-rolled pupils is unsurprisingly Invicta Grammar in Maidstone! 

This article does not attribute any of the tactics described to any particular school. However, there is evidence that some families remove their children from main-stream schools as an alternative to a threat of permanent exclusion (see below – Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy).  It is now some years since I highlighted the then high level of permanent exclusions in Kent, and this figure has since fallen sharply with considerable government pressure to see permanent exclusion as a last resort.  

I have followed this data through for all Kent secondary schools, looking at pupils leaving their schools between the 2014 September Year 10 Census and the 2016 January Year 11 Census. Schools adopting an off-rolling tactic need to remove them from the school roll before the January Census in Year 11, otherwise they show up in the school’s examination statistics. 

The table below identifies those schools with the highest figures for off-rolling, by number and percentage.  Two other schools with a higher than average pupil loss are: Meopham School, part of Swale Academies Trust; and The North school, Ashford, also run by Swale Academies.

Kent Secondary Schools:
Off Rolling Oct 2014-Jan 2016
Fall 2014 October
Year 10 - 2016
January Year 11
% Fall
Community College
20 10%
Pent Valley
Technology College
16 12%
Charles Dickens School 15 6%
Oasis Academy
Isle of Sheppey
14 5%
Westlands Academy
14 5%
High Weald
13 19%
Goodwin Academy
11 7%
Abbey School
10 6%
Cornwallis Academy
10 4%
Invicta Grammar 5 3%
Meopham  5 5%
The North 5 4%

 One of the tactics to remove students from a school roll is to transfer them wholly to Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) for young people with behavioural difficulties. However, the great majority of pupils placed in PRUs remain on the host schools’ registers, and so are not off-rolled and are not included in the table below. Families in such a situation should ask for their child to remain on the host school roll, but appear not always to be informed at some schools that this is an option. There is just one PRU that stands out by its large proportion of complete transfers. Swale Inclusion Unit (PRU) saw its Year 11 roll swell from six to 38 students between September 2015 and January 2016. 

YEAR 11 ROLL CHANGE: OCT 2015 - JAN 2016
Oct 15
Jan 16
Birchwood PRU Shepway 4 2 -2
Enterprise Learning Alliance Thanet 18 18 0
Maidstone & Malling Alternative
Provision Centre
Maidstone 0 2 2
NW Kent Alternative
Provision Service
NW Kent 2 8 6
Swale Inclusion Centre Swale 6 38 32
Two Bridges School Tonbridge 1 4 3

In total, 293 Kent children disappeared from school rolls between the September 2014 census and the cohort that sat GCSEs in 2016. A net figure of 59 arrived in other schools. Between September 2015 (I don’t have the 2014 data) and January 2016, another 39 children were enrolled at the six PRUs as their main base, more than doubling, up from 31 children, 32 of them at Swale Inclusion Centre. It is reasonable to conclude that most of these children came from the three Swale schools in the table above.

Schools adopting an off-rolling tactic need to see pupils leave the school roll before the January Census in Year 11, otherwise they show up in the school’s examination statistics. A few may have moved home, a few may have transferred to other schools some by encouragement or, all included in the 59), whilst many if not most of the rest will have been allowed or encouraged to take up ‘Home Education’, Kent having by some way the largest cohort of Home Educated children in the country.

High Weald Academy is of special note, with nearly one in five students disappearing before GCSE, by some way the highest percentage in the county. Whilst this is no doubt contributory to the school’s high GCSE performance, it is clear that parents are aware something is wrong at the school which has the highest vacancy rate in the county. 

Government is at present placing pressure on Local Authorities to ensure that all young people aged 14-18 remain in education, training or employment with training, but clearly the practice of off-rolling in its different guises seriously damages young people’s employment and life chances and the Ofsted initiative should at least see schools scaling back this process.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey
I have previously written about the long running  problems of the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, with the previous Principal failing to make progress in his less than two years’ full time at the school, in spite of extensive PR to the contrary. Not surprisingly, he has sought to move onward and upwards and is now Executive Principal of Leigh Academy’s Stationers Crown Woods Academy in Greenwich. He has been succeeded at Sheppey by one of his Deputies, John Cavadino, but left behind some of the weakest GCSE results in Kent for summer 2016, as confirmed here. The PR machine continues and the school website somehow reports these are improved! OFSTED last month records progress, but all aspects of the school still Require Improvement, apart from the Sixth Form which is Good. However, Ofsted is not yet looking at off-rolling, with one in 20 pupils vanishing in the critical period.

The Academy has now introduced a controversial and simplistic tough new disciplinary code to improve standards of behaviour, which has recently been rewritten following extensive criticism. Rightly it begins with a Rewards Policy, but then degenerates through a detention system ‘the detention system is non-negotiable’ via a mechanical route to ‘Reflection’ and Exclusion'. Reflection, which will for example be imposed for a pupil arriving at detention five minutes late, requires pupils to sit in a room and ‘Reflect’ on their behaviour for a whole day, an utterly unrealistic expectation that a day of boredom will improve matters. Quote: ‘Reflection is a large room where children sit and do nothing, they are only allowed to go to the toilet’. I understand that sometimes pupils are allowed to choose a single book to read 

Government Advice on Behaviour and Discipline in Schools states with regard to internal exclusion: 'Schools should ensure that pupils are kept in seclusion or isolation no longer than is necessary and that their time spent there is used as constructively as possible'. The school, in a letter to the local Member of Parliament, states that its policy of Reflection is compliant with this advice, although it appears to meet neither of these criteria. For no work is set in Reflection, so the pupil is deprived of any form of education, and there is no constructive action to tackle any problems, underlying or otherwise, leading to the sanction. A process of Internal Exclusion is itself not uncommon, and makes sense where a pupil needs to be removed from what may be a difficult class environment for disciplinary reasons ‘in order that learning and teaching for the majority of pupils can continue uninterrupted’ according to older advice from the Department of Education. However, it is clear that many of those who find themselves in Reflection are not guilty of any such interruption and so it is clearly not an appropriate punishment. Therefore this all surely opens the school to legal challenge.

There is no opportunity built in for challenging any of the automatic penalties which can therefore rapidly escalate out of proportion to the original offence, and examples of ridiculous cases are highlighted in local and social media and in the enclosed thoughtful letter of complaint to the Secretary of State. The letter, whose content shines through with a frustrated belief in the value of a good education, was signed by 24 families who are part of a Parental Group of over 200, indicating the large scale of concern. It also makes allegations about the recent Ofsted Inspection. 

For one parent who complained, the reported view of the Principal is that ‘it’s a bit like going shopping you go to Sainsbury’s and if you don’t like it you go to Asda instead’. A very patronising view, given there is no practical school alternative, with all five Sittingbourne secondary schools, the only ones realistically accessible from Sheppey, full. Another family who took up the MP’s advice to see the headteacher, were reportedly told their child should fulfil a Reflection they considered wholly unfair, face Exclusion, or consider Home Education. They have now acted on the latter advice and like too many other families have withdrawn their children from the school. They have found a local Home Tutor, in what would appear to be a growing business but what a failure of the education system for all the children affected.

Last modified on Monday, 02 July 2018 03:51


  • Comment Link Thursday, 18 May 2017 14:53 posted by Michelle Carter

    Well it just about sums up the academy! My son has just been excluded again, second time this week. He has been at school for a grand total of one and a half days this week. He failed reflection for opening the door with his foot. He was fine for the two teachers he had this morning but this afternoon he failed within about 10 mins. I had a phone call from a member of staff to let me know he was excluded but did not know the story of why. (PETER: The reasons for the exclusion and your right to respond are set out in the exclusion letter. Without such a letter the exclusion would be unlawful). When i mentioned that no one has got back to me about my son being refused access to school last week because a staff member insisted he was excluded when he was not, my son proceeded to disappear for the whole day, oh yes the school forgot to tell me he was not at school,so i was unaware he was missing. Guess what, they are going to look into it again. I also asked why the behaviour policy is not up to date with the system they now use and the staff member was unable to answer. When i requested a behaviour policy at the East site the ladies in the school office told me that they did not know what it was or where it was kept. I cannot understand how they managed to keep up appearances for Ofsted. I am now getting myself ready to write a letter to the governors. I was told if i want to disagree with the exclusion my son will not be allowed back at school until there is a hearing. (PETER: This would be unlawful. The exclusion is for a fixed period, and the child cannot be punished further in such a way. Your rights are set out in Annex A of This also sets out the full rules and procedures for exclusions). Just an added note, more than just my child has got a two day exclusion for failing reflection today, but another child got away with it because their parents did not answer the phone to the school so they could not send them home. In future i don't think i will be answering the phone to the school anymore. I have an answer machine, unless its an emergency they will not get a return phone call until after school hours

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 17 May 2017 21:51 posted by Oasis parent

    I was actually in the office for a meeting when Ofsted Inspectors were due in and saw several supply teachers just turning up in reception, In the 5 years my son has been there I have never seen so many staff turning up. Funny enough, my son was also sent home the same day and quite a few other kids I know were too. One day last week the school told me that my son was refusing to do anything and that he was walking out of school. When I arrived he was still there not long as the school said. When I was given the slip for attendance reason it stated he he was excluded. And they say they don't lie. Well, if it was an exclusion why have I not had an exclusion letter. How can he have walked out when he was still there with a piece of paper saying excluded.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 17 May 2017 21:37 posted by Suzanne Ellen

    My son attends the academy and it's been nothing but stressful and he is only in Year 8.
    Not much learning happens as far too many cover teachers and when they do have teachers they send children to reflection for coughing or talking.

    Children with SEN needs are not treated any differently even though they have more complex needs . The school can't provide the right discipline for all the children's individual needs !!

    Bullying is well known in the school and they way it's dealt with is burying their heads in the sand .
    The list goes on with this school!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 17 May 2017 16:58 posted by Michelle Carter

    Hi, I have two children at the oasis academy, one at each site. I am having trouble with both sites. Yes my boys can be a bit of a pain but they have both learnt that if they answer a teacher back, they do not like to take the blame if they have done nothing wrong,. They then get sent home.! The school have been sending them home approximately 4 out of 5 days. I attend meetings every week, sometimes twice a week. They say they are going to put measures in place then do not bother, but because they are written down I am unable to prove this has not been done. On the days Ofsted were in, my child had been sent home and signed out by the school at 8.35 a.m. They only started school at 8.30 a.m. He was sent home for persistent disruption, in all of five minutes. I was then told he was excluded the second day for rudeness. At one of my meetings I was encouraged by a senior member of staff at the East site that i should home school my children, he then went on to tell me how easy it is and all i have to do is write a quick note to someone in the school to let them know. (PETER: This would be illegal!) Last week my children completed 1 day at school each. There attendance is disgusting because they keep getting sent home. The school have also lost my children on about 3 occasions. One was told they were going to send him home so left the premises, he was missing all day and I was not told. The teachers blamed the office staff and the office staff blamed the teachers. No one thought to tell me. I have had enough of the school but I am not going to home school just so the academy can have an easy life. I do not get to just give up on my children when things get tough because they like to have an opinion and a brain to think for themselves. All children are different and needed to be treated as individuals not little robots who can not think for themselves. PETER: Another shocking example. The alleged incidents would amount to multiple illegal exclusions, if there are no exclusion letters. If the exclusions have been formalised then there needs to be a formal hearing in front of governors if they add up to more than 15 school days. If this has not happened, you should certainly make a formal complaint to the school about these, logging the dates. I have heard of the removal of certain children on the days of the OFSTED Inspection, paralleled by the replacement of some supply staff by OASIS teachers redeployed from elsewhere on the occasion.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 16 May 2017 22:04 posted by Mrs miller

    Hi peter my son is sitting his exams this week and the academy have forced my son on to study leave when all the other kids are still at school he is allowed to do drop down and exams but no other lessons due to behaviour issues. I have not agreed to this but have been told that I don't have too they can just do what they want and then I was blamed for this situation arising, even though they have are the ones putting him on study leave.PETER: This is appalling, but no surprise as the school appears to break the law and rules with no fear of consequences. What is happening is clearly an informal exclusion, which is illegal. What can you do? I suggest you complain to everyone! Ask the school to confirm it is an informal exclusion, and if not,, what is it - although I don't anticipate and answer. Try the local newspaper; feel free to quote me. Complain to the DFE quoting the "illegality" of the school's actions. Complain to the governors. Complain to the Regional Schools Commissioner. Complain to KCC, this may fall within their remit even though the school is an academy. Complain to Oasis. Is there anyone else affected? Get them to act independently. This has got to stop.I am happy to take it up provided I have sufficient ammunition to corroborate the situation.

  • Comment Link Monday, 15 May 2017 15:35 posted by Past Oasis Parent

    Peter my comment is about Oasis Academy

    After many meetings at the school I came to the conclusion that for the emotional well being of my children it would be best to remove them from the Academy which is what I done. The emphasis in the Academy is on rules not on education. These rules change regularly and are interpreted by different staff members in different ways so what one member of staff would allow another member would not. My main issue was reflection and how the use of it was affecting my children sitting in a room for hours on end with nothing to do was having an affect on their wellbeing. The reasons for reflection varied and in my opinion in many cases they were trivial they certainly did not justify a whole day in a room with only toilet breaks allowed.
    I know in life we all have to abide by rules as indeed I myself do in my place of work but the Academy does not apply rules either consistently or fairly and I believe children are entitled to be in an environment that is both consistent and fair.
    I am one of those parents you mentioned at the bottom of the article as I now have my children privately tutored as you mentioned schools in Sittingbourne are full so options are limited.

  • Comment Link Friday, 12 May 2017 14:24 posted by Phil Clarke

    Hi Peter, it would be helpful if you could break down your figures into; educated at home, in year transfer to mainstream school, in year transfer to PRU where pupil ended up on a single registration, moved out of area.

    Ideally in a nice easy to read table against each school.

    Kind regards,

    Phil PETER: Sadly I don't have the resources to gather all this data, through what I suspect are a large number of FOIs. However, I can report that I shall shortly publish a 2017 update, which underlines the issue, with two of the top three schools in this year's list .featuring highly above. I don't believe this is a coincidence! I will publish this as soon as I get round to it.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 04 May 2017 17:03 posted by Ex Oasis Parent

    Peter I am commenting on the section you have written regarding Oasis Academy. I recently de registered my children (I am not the only parent to do this) because the way some members of staff treat children is dreadful. The behaviour policy in theory is fine but in practice it is not adhered to and as parents we were not afforded the opportunity to give any input to it. My child's teacher asked him to move to the back of the class he simply said that if he did he would be unable to see ( he has poor eyesight and this is on sims in his contact book etc.) but the teacher proceeded to give him an immediate detention. He did not do this as I felt it was not justified and the school offers no opportunity to explain, so he then faced a full day in reflection. This is just one example of the reason's for reflection others include stepping inside the door with a coat on ( a lot of children no longer bring coats ), being more than a minute late between lessons ( so if you need to go to the toilet you will be late) the list is endless ! Reflection lasts 7 and a half hours and you can only leave to go to the toilet ( although I know of kids who have been denied this), food is at lunchtime only it is brought in on a trolley and is very basic. There is no learning what so ever during reflection it is usually a member of pastoral who supervised it and this in my opinion is depravation of education which is the reason our children go to school. As an adult I would not be able to cope with sitting in a room for that length of time with nothing to do so how a child feels I can't imagine but it must be so demoralising. The attitude from management is frankly shocking many children including mine have been told if you don't like it move to another school. Given Oasis is the only school on the island this is not easy and management are both complacent and arrogant as a result. Faced with a choice of allowing my child to sit in reflection again or else they would be excluded I decided to home school ( I hadn't thought to do this before until the head suggested it). I emphasise that I felt I was left with no other option because of months and months of constant issues which were getting worse by the day !

  • Comment Link Thursday, 27 April 2017 14:58 posted by Marie miller

    PETER: This comment is regarding the issues at Oasis Sheppey -
    I whole heartedly agree with everything written on this article I do agree schools have to have rules but it seems more is being put in to silly rules than our Children's education. There are lots of genuine reasons why people are late and even though I agree regular affenders should be punished, sitting in reflection all day in my opinion is not the answer. It just seems that no excuse is a reason. How do they know if something quite serious has happened and that's why they are late. I have also had experience with the school sending my child home from reflection in the middle of him sitting mock exams. This was because my son was eating at break time, as in reflection they are only allowed to eat at lunch time which is at 1.20 and quite late in my opinion. He had just sat an hour and a half exam was then put into reflection for a very minor thing. He was thensent home because he was eating in his break time in reflection and they are not allowed to eat at break only at lunch. I feel this is totally wrong How are they supposed to do well in exams when they are restricting them from eating properly. He was hungry and I think it's totally wrong to use this as a punishment

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