Dame Rachel de Souza wants to end pupil exclusions and ‘off-rolling’

England’s children's commissioner wants to tackle pupil exclusions and ‘off-rolling’.

England’s children's commissioner wants to tackle pupil exclusions and ‘off-rolling’. - Credit: PA

The former head of a Norfolk multi-academy trust has said she wants to use her new role as England’s children's commissioner to tackle pupil exclusions and "off-rolling".

The pledge comes despite Ofsted having raised concerns about potential 'off-rolling' at one of her former schools. 

East Point Academy in Lowestoft was inspected in October 2019 over concerns about safeguarding and "pupil movement", specifically ‘off-rolling’ - the practice of removing pupils from the school roll without a formal expulsion, or by encouraging parents to remove their child "when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school".

Critics say it is a way for schools to remove difficult or low-achieving pupils so that they are not included in their GCSE results.

Rachel de Souza, former chief executive of the Inspiration Trust

Rachel de Souza, former chief executive of the Inspiration Trust who has taken up the role of children's commissioner for England. - Credit: Tom Barnes

Dame Rachel de Souza, who was previously chief executive of the Inspiration Trust academy chain with 14 schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, including East Point Academy, said her experience would mean that headteachers would talk to her about the issue in order to "get the system right".

She told the Times Education Supplement (TES): “I can bring my experience. Once we’d identified some of those issues – it took me a couple of years to really bring the entire organisation [the Inspiration Trust] round and learn all the things we needed to do to try to get that better and sort that out.

East Point Academy, Lowestoft.

East Point Academy, Lowestoft. - Credit: Archant


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“I think some of the answers are structural: we need more alternative provision. I’d love to see trusts and groups of schools with really good alternative provision so we can have revolving doors, you know, and get children back into the mainstream.”

Dame Rachel this week launched a "once-in-a-generation" review, titled The Childhood Commission, that aims to address policy shortfalls that have held back the lives of children, as well problems that have been amplified by the pandemic.

She said she was "absolutely determined" to make sure that children are prioritised so they do not become the "lost generation" as a result of the pandemic.

Some secondary schools staggered their start in order to test all their students for coronavirus.

Some secondary schools staggered their start in order to test all their students for coronavirus but, at the end of the week, 95 per cent of students were in. - Credit: PA

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She told the TES that as part of the review she wanted to question children themselves about off-rolling, including those in care and in alternative education provision.

“I want to know what they feel about it, if that’s an issue – what they feel about how they are, where they are,” she said.

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