Police commissioners call for ‘off-rolling’ to be outlawed and a renewed focus on exclusions

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Sledgehammer and nuts spring to mind. Criminalize Headteachers because of the poor behaviour and ...

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A number of police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have called on the prime minister to outlaw the “off-rolling” of students and to give local authorities responsibility over all school exclusions.

In a letter to Theresa May, the PCCs raise their concerns that those excluded from mainstream education are at “significantly greater risk of becoming involved in or affected by serious youth violence”.

Figures show that the number of exclusions is increasing, with the number of young people permanently excluded having risen by 56 per cent across England between 2013/2014 and 2016/2017.
Over the same period, the number of permanent exclusions has increased in the West Midlands by 62 per cent and 40 per cent in London.

The letter points to work in Scotland which has led to reductions in violence over the last 10 years. Scottish Violence Reduction Unit deputy director Will Linden has credited a reduction in school exclusions as a key factor in this.

The letter has been written by the PCCs for the West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Humberside, Northumbria, West Yorkshire, Leicestershire and South Wales, as well as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

It calls for the government to give local authorities the “powers, funding and responsibilities they need over all school exclusions”. It states: “Clearly, the way the education system deals with excluded young people is broken. It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education.

“That is why the time has come to act urgently. In the first instance, local authorities need powers and responsibilities over all school exclusions. Time and again we are hearing how the fragmentation of the education system, and the breaking of the link between schools and local authorities, has led to a lack of accountability, coordination and action.

“There is significant variation by school as to what will result in exclusion, with many excluded pupils moving between local authority areas and also out of their cities. The practice of off-rolling must be outlawed.”

Off-rolling is when a school removes a pupil from the roll without a formal, permanent exclusion and primarily in the interests of the school’s performance rather than the young person.

Concerns over the practice have been raised by both Ofsted and England’s children’s commissioner in recent months.

An investigation into home education published last month by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, raised suspicions that a minority of schools were off-rolling students by coercing parents into home educating.

The report found that while nine out of 10 schools only saw zero to two referrals into home education a year, a tiny minority of schools had more than 15.

Ms Longfield has pledged to publish a second report later this year “identifying which schools have high numbers of children being withdrawn into home education which may suggest practices of off-rolling”.

Ofsted’s draft Education Inspection Framework, meanwhile, specifically mentions the practice of off-rolling, which it warns is a “form of gaming”. It says that inspectors will evaluate the extent to which: “Leaders aim to ensure that all learners complete their programmes of study. They provide the support for staff to make this possible and do not allow gaming or off-rolling.”

Ofsted has previously highlighted increases in the number of pupils being permanently or temporarily excluded and the fact that exclusion rates for certain children and some ages remain much higher.

For example, more than half of permanent or fixed term exclusions happen in year 9 or above and boys are over three times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion.

Children with pending diagnosis are waiting months in queues to see consultant doctors. They cannot get absences authorised without diagnosis (if their absences are significant in number). Then parents get threats of prosecution, including threat of fines running into four figures and prison sentences. This happened to me. Finally, after a term of this, Jerome sometimes fainting on the journey and with signs of sleep disorder that was not manageable at all, then we capitulated and deregistered. I am quite ill myself and we have struggled to provide home education over these last months since he was off-rolled. I cannot afford tutors. There was not really any choice - no flexibility related to start times and no advice re pastoral support in school. No counsellor or nurse. No meeting with Education Welfare offered. Comprehensives are no longer inclusive. Also it was about grades - we were told that J was not on track for progress grades and encouraged to take him out. Even offered help with Maths and English tuition from the school which never happened.
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Sledgehammer and nuts spring to mind. Criminalize Headteachers because of the poor behaviour and life choices of others? Really? Elective Home Education is a parental right not part of any referral process. Do the police believe that a criminal prosecution is a good use of police time, resources and in the public interest.
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