The Town Hall is deploying more resources to support families in response to warnings from councillors scrutinising the issue of ‘off-rolling’ in the borough that some parents may be being pressured into moving their children out of school.
Off-rolling is defined as when a student is removed from a school without a formal permanent exclusion, or through the institution encouraging a family to remove a child in the school’s own interest, rather than in the student’s own best interest.
The Citizen reported back in September of last year that the borough’s rates of elective home education (EHE) saw a percentage shift of 92 per cent between 2015/16 and 2017/18, with councillors confirming that the number of children in EHE has grown “significantly”, currently sitting at around 500.
Education boss and deputy mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble said the council has now increased resourcing for its EHE team with new officers and funding to provide more support for these children, with new policies for the issue being implemented.
According to Bramble, a “risk-based approach” will now be in place for oversight and engagement with families undertaking EHE, with some families to get a greater level of contact than others depending on their children’s vulnerability or the parents’ capacity.
Information meetings for EHE families will also now be increased to twice annually, allowing parents and carers to access relevant information and speak to council officers. The next meeting will take place in November.
Councillors also called on Hackney’s education department to challenge schools where off-rolling is high, and asked it to speak to a sample of selected parents and children to help build a case study of the circumstances of removal, though this recommendation does not seem to have been specifically taken up, with the council pointing to work it already undertakes in this area.
The Town Hall said in response to the recommendation: “Schools are required to notify the local authority when they are about to remove a pupil’s name from the admissions register. An admission officer updates the council’s database following receipt of roll notifications and queries instances where there is missing information.
“If the removal is unexplained, school performance and standards are notified. Using school census data, Hackney’s Management Information, Systems & Analysis (MISA) team will produce data on an annual basis showing year on year movement in the number of pupils on roll. This allows cohort figures to be tracked e.g. Year 10, November and, again, Year 11 March.
“Where the change in roll is significant or unusual this will, in the first instance, instigate a conversation with the school leaders, led by the linked School Improvement Partner or adviser. Further conversations may be arranged with the school leaders if necessary.”
The council added that “at times” its education department does discuss with parents and pupils what the circumstances and reasons for moving schools were, with formal concerns around movement on a school’s roll raised with heads and automatically triggering the Town Hall’s risk assessment process.
A letter penned in September by Cllrs Sophie Conway and Margaret Gordon said: “Whilst defining off-rolling is relatively straightforward, the Commission understood that identifying cases in practice can be more difficult.
“Although a child may be removed from the school roll ostensibly to go to another school (via managed move) or in to EHE, whether this is in the ‘best interests’ of the child is a more nuanced assessment, particularly as the school may have an interest in removing the child from the school roll (for example, for improved school performance).
“Given that a school itself has a highly influential role in determining what is in the child’s best interest, additional independent advice and guidance may be needed for parents.
“Whilst parental consent is required for a child to be moved off-roll into a new school or into EHE, evidence presented to the Commission suggested that in some circumstances, parents can feel pressured in to this decision, especially when a permanent exclusion is presented as the only alternative option for their child.”