Leeds Council to restart probe into controversial 'off-rolling' practice used on struggling pupils

A Leeds City Council investigation into the controversial practice of “off-rolling” in the district’s schools is set to restart next week.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 2:53 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 2:55 pm

Concerns around off-rolling – the practice of schools finding ways to remove troublesome pupils from their registers without a formal exclusion – was heard by an inquiry into the issue in February and March 2020.

But the inquiry was suspended, following the Covid-19 lockdown in March last year, with officers stating it would not recommence until 2021.

A paper set to go before Leeds City Council’s Children and Families Scrutiny Board next week is set to kick the investigation off once more.

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A Leeds City Council investigation into the controversial practice of “off-rolling” in the district’s schools is set to restart next week (photo: PA).
A Leeds City Council investigation into the controversial practice of “off-rolling” in the district’s schools is set to restart next week (photo: PA).

Meetings held in 2020 heard how there was a significant increase in the number of parents choosing to home educate pupils in their final years of secondary school or with special educational needs.

Experts were concerned this may be a result of schools encouraging families to home educate their children to avoid the prospect of permanent exclusion – and therefore off-rolling pupils to benefit the school.

It also heard how the number of fixed term exclusions – otherwise known as suspension – had increased dramatically over the years; while internal exclusions – known as isolation – were not measured in many schools, as they were not obliged to provide the data.

A meeting in March 2020 heard evidence that pupils in some Leeds high schools were being put into isolation for forgetting their books, wearing earrings or “eating some Rolos”.

Leeds councillors and education experts present said they worried schools in the city could be veering towards “Victorian” values – and that children are being taken out of lessons for “punitive” reasons.

A report set to go before councillors next week stated: “In consultation with the relevant Director and Executive Board Members, the Board is asked to reflect on the information presented within this report and to consider appropriate next steps.

“The views of Members during today’s meeting will then inform terms of reference for the Board’s ongoing inquiry work.”

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 7.

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