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Off-rolling: what you need to know

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What you need to know now

Ofsted's 2019 school inspection handbook includes a sharper focus on the practice of off-rolling, or using unlawful means to remove pupils from school rolls. In schools where inspectors find evidence of off-rolling, the leadership and management of the school are likely to be judged to be inadequate.

The Ofsted definition

Ofsted uses this definition of 'off-rolling' to assist inspectors in their conversations with schools:

"Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil."

Tips to help you prevent off-rolling

The advice below comes from our associate education experts, Emma Swann, Lucinda Bell, Clive Dobbin and Keith Clover, as well as Forbes solicitors.

1) Review your school's vision and values

Data suggests school performance data incentivises off-rolling.

Make sure that your school vision reflects the goal to support pupils in all areas, not just academically. Work with the governing board to incorporate this vision into your school improvement plan, so that school improvement and your own success are defined beyond test scores and league tables.

2) Review your policies

They should address off-rolling directly and be sufficiently robust to prevent the potential for off-rolling.

In other words, if you follow your policies, you'll have sufficient evidence to show that pupils are excluded or moved only as a last resort.

If you have an exclusions policy, add a paragraph that addresses off-rolling directly. You're not required to have an exclusions policy, but it's recommended and helps you prevent off-rolling. Use our model exclusion policy and look at school examples.

Be sure your behaviour policy sets out:

  • A clear and comprehensive procedure to manage behaviour all the way up to the point where the school decides to remove a pupil from the roll - explaining that this is only ever used as a last resort
  • Your commitment to providing additional support to pupils who exhibit challenging behaviour or have underlying needs that aren't met

3) Practice early intervention

You should already have a clear programme for early intervention for groups of pupils disproportionately affected by exclusion.

For these pupils, inspectors will probably look at what steps you took before any of these pupils left your school.

They could ask for evidence of:

  • Appropriate assessment
  • Multidisciplinary support
  • Parental engagement
  • Coordination with the local authority as necessary

Members of The Key for School Leaders can access a wealth of resources on all areas of school leadership and management at

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