Education chiefs refuse to name eight Suffolk schools allegedly involved in "off-rolling" pupils
PUBLISHED: 16:00 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:42 11 October 2019
Education chiefs are refusing to name eight schools in Suffolk which were found to have illegally pressured parents into removing their children from school.
Suffolk County Council published a report in May this year which confirmed it had found eight instances of schools encouraging parents to take their children out of school because they were too disruptive or bringing the overall results down - a process known as off-rolling.
The council claimed it was monitoring those schools, but despite multiple requests for the identity of those schools to be made public by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council has refused to disclose the names.
A spokeswoman from the authority said it was because they were historic cases from the 2016/17 school year, despite the May 2019 report being the first public acknowledgement of the issue. Ofsted nationally has come under fire for refusing to name schools carrying out the illegal practice.
Attempts to obtain the names under Freedom of Information laws revealed that the council no longer had formal records of the eight instances as records had since been deleted, but confirmed it did still know the identities of those schools.
The council spokeswoman said: "These incidents were completely dealt with at the time and proper procedures were followed. This included discussions with the individual schools, meetings with Ofsted and making the Regional Schools Commissioner aware.
"We would have worked hard to ensure that the pupils continued in education and were safe.
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"We have no current cases of illegal off-rolling by Suffolk schools, but will continue to remain vigilant and monitor the situation."
Ofsted said it wasn't able to confirm whether it had received correspondence from Suffolk County Council over the matter while the Regional Schools Commissioner office also had no data.
It is not clear what sanctions, if any, were placed on the eight schools.
The council spokeswoman said that there was "no evidence that local authority schools are using off-rolling as a strategy" but fresh questions have arisen after it emerged this week that a task force had been formed by the council's scrutiny committee to look at the rise in home schooling.
A report presented to the council's cabinet on Tuesday said "its scope would be to consider off-rolling".
Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman at the council said: "You can barely believe the ineptitude sometimes.
"The Conservatives 'running' the council promised that they were going to monitor off-rolling, but they have managed to lose key data which would have allowed them to do so.
"In February, Cllr Gordon Jones [Conservative cabinet member for education] said that there is 'undoubtedly off-rolling from schools', but now the council are saying that they 'have no evidence' that it is happening.
"They are all over the place - off-rolling can have a catastrophic impact on a child, yet there seems to be neither the will nor the ability to properly get to grips with this critically important issue."