EPI report highlights thousands of ‘unexplained’ pupil moves

According to the BBC, the new EPI report shows that tens of thousands of pupils moved between schools over the past five years – but why?

The latest EPI report highlights around 55,000 unexplained between-school moves made by pupils over the past five years.

The concern is that these movements are due to off-rolling, whereby schools remove the less high-performing children in order to make exam results look, overall, more impressive.

A quarter of the moves took place across 330 secondary schools.

“The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing,” said David Laws, chair of the EPI and a former education minister.

Off-rolling is, unfortunately, difficult to prove; it’s hard to tell when a pupil has been pushed out by the school and when they have been removed by parents.

The EPI study does show when other factors are accounted for – such as families moving to another part of the country – but there are still about 10,000 pupils a year whose moves are described as “unexplained”.

The study does not measure how many of these might be the result of off-rolling, but it suggests this may be the reason for some of them.

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said it was a “national scandal that tens of thousands of children are falling off school rolls and potentially out of education altogether”.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said of this phenomenon: “This report raises important questions about why pupils are leaving schools for unexplained reasons, and we need to confront the uncomfortable reality that at least some of these unexplained exits may be the result of pupils being illegitimately ‘off-rolled’ by schools.

“This is a practice in which a school encourages a parent to withdraw their child in order to improve the standing of the school in performance tables. It is entirely unacceptable and is abhorred by the vast majority of schools.

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“The number of unexplained exits uncovered in the research is worryingly high, and the fact that certain vulnerable pupil groups are particularly likely to be affected is also worrying.

“However, we should keep in mind that many parents make the decision to move or home-school their child for their own reasons and without any pressure being applied.

“We welcome the EPI’s intention to publish further research to examine exactly where these unexplained exits are occurring as this will enable multi-academy trusts and local authorities with particularly high exit rates to provide explanation and insight. We would caution against jumping to conclusions.

“This is a starting point for gaining a greater level of understanding about a complex issue. We hope this work will ultimately help to eradicate any use of off-rolling and ensure that no pupil is treated in such an appalling manner.”

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