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Ofsted concerned over high number of pupils being taken off academy's roll

PUBLISHED: 15:48 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:11 13 November 2019

East Point Academy, Lowestoft.
PHOTO: Nick Butcher

East Point Academy, Lowestoft. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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Ofsted has raised concerns about potential "off-rolling" of students at a Suffolk school.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, which runs East Point Academy.
Picture: ANDI SAPEYDame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, which runs East Point Academy. Picture: ANDI SAPEY

East Point Academy in Lowestoft was inspected in October over concerns about safeguarding and "pupil movement", specifically off-rolling.

According to Ofsted, off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal expulsion, or by encouraging parents to remove their child from the school roll "when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school".

Critics say it is a way for schools to remove low-performing or troublesome students.

While it is not unlawful, Ofsted considers the practice unacceptable.

The inspection at East Point Academy, which is run by the Inspiration Trust, found a significant proportion of pupils left the school before the end of year 11.

While senior staff knew which pupils had left and why, they had not analysed the data to see if there were common reasons for pupils' departures.

Inspectors said there was no evidence that leaders or the trust had encouraged pupils and their families to leave the school, but that senior staff had only recently started reflecting on why pupils chose to leave.

The trust's chief executive, Dame Rachel de Souza, agreed with the inspectors' findings but said East Point's leaders had "good intentions".

East Point Academy, Lowestoft. PHOTO: Nick ButcherEast Point Academy, Lowestoft. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Inspectors found a steep rise in the number of pupils who left the school in the 2017/18 academic year to be home-educated.

They said leaders' interrogation of parents over why they were opting to home-educate their children was "flimsy" and a subsequent audit found a "lack of rigour" in the school's processes for monitoring pupils who left to be home-educated.

The Inspiration Trust was aware of the rise and Ms de Souza admitted the figures were "too high". The trust has since taken steps to tighten up recording at the academy.

The inspection also found pupils who were attending alternative provision - often vocational courses for children who struggle with full-time mainstream education - were sometimes removed from the school roll when they reached year 11.

In some cases where pupils were attending alternative provision full-time, inspectors said it was unclear why they were removed from the school roll and that "leaders could not show how this was in the pupils' best interests". The academy's practises have since been updated.

A spokesperson for Inspiration Trust said: "The report from Ofsted explicitly makes clear that there is no evidence of any off-rolling. We were aware that some administrative processes around families who opt to Home Educate their children needed to tighten up and we have already taken action to address this, which Ofsted recognise. As a result, the proportion of families choosing Elective Home Education is reducing.

"We have also taken steps to improve our administrative processes to ensure that when students are being educated in alternative provision, that they continue to be registered on our roll as well as the site where they are being educated day to day.

"We were pleased to see that Ofsted recognises the importance that we place on inclusion and that it is front and centre of our agenda, including on staff training. As Ofsted also notes, many improvements have already been made, and we have a clear programme of training to ensure that we meet our ambition of excellence in inclusion."

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