Off-rolling and looked-after children

Posted on 24 June 2019 in All news

In light of new research for Ofsted, the concerning issue of off-rolling in schools is a hot topic in the news and in schools across the country. Off-rolling is the term used for when a child is removed from their school for the school’s benefit, rather than in the child’s best interests. Schools may off-roll students for a number of reasons – to protect school budgets or support academic performance and reputation, for example. Unfortunately, it appears the practice is not only common but increasing. Research found that a quarter of teachers have witnessed off-rolling and two-thirds of these believe the practice is on the rise.

A poll of more than 1000 teachers found that almost eight out of ten permanently excluded children come from vulnerable backgrounds. The study also raised concerns around schools specifically targeting parents with less understanding of the education system, pressuring them to remove their child from the school. In fact, more than 80% of parents of permanently excluded children said they received inadequate support in finding an alternative place for their child. In light of the findings, Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has called on school leaders to expel fewer pupils.

While, under certain circumstances, expulsion is a necessary evil to support both the student at-hand and their classmates, temporary or permanent exclusion should only ever be a final resort. The Timpson Review, published earlier this year and carried out by former children’s minister Edward Timpson, found schools to have a significant lack of understanding of the care system. As such, Timpson stated that schools face a “particular challenge in recognising, understanding and meeting the needs of children in, or on the edge of, the care system.” He went onto argue that schools must “act immediately” or risk failing to deliver the care and support required for looked-after children to thrive in school. Without an understanding of the context of the care system, schools are unable to deliver effective early interventions, resulting in spiralling behaviour and academic performance.

Nearly 59% of looked-after children are classed as having special-educational needs by age 11, compared with 17% of non-looked-after children. At secondary school, just over 17% of looked-after children achieve a grade 4 in both GCSE English and Maths. Timpson’s recommendation for schools to gain a better understanding of looked-after children’s needs resonates; it is the responsibility of schools to understand the needs of and support vulnerable children. Instead, however, it appears the opposite is happening, with looked-after children five times more likely to be temporarily excluded than pupils overall.

Schools are being challenged to not only reduce unauthorised absence, exclusions and end off-rolling, but to better support looked-after and SEN students. Whilst such expectations are both legislatively and ethically founded, schools are already struggling with increasing student populations, rising workloads and staff shortages. Unfortunately, those most impacted by these obstacles are markedly, the vulnerable minority of a student population.

So, what is a school to do? Strong engagement with local authorities is key for supporting a child in care. Fortunately, we are living in a day and age in which technology is enabling access to a level of data previously unseen in the care sector. With vital information available, virtual schools are better placed to support schools with the information they need to help vulnerable students every day.

Looked After Call is paving the way for stronger, productive two-way communication between virtual schools and local authorities for the benefit of children. Designed with the challenges of both audiences in mind, the integrated system delivers real-time data and reports on the attendance, attainment and progress of looked-after children. All information is stored and accessed in the Looked After Call secure web-portal, allowing virtual school staff to interrogate and deliver reports tailored to specific requirements.

At the heart of the innovative platform, Looked After Call ensures looked-after children are safe and cared for by supporting the local authority to meet their duty of care under the Children Act 1989. Get in touch to find out how we can support you to safeguard and monitor looked-after children whilst saving time and protecting budgets. Call 03333 13 14 14 or email