As students across the country receive exam results, Andrew McDonald writes about the launching the Campaign Against Off Rolling, opposing a practice that disproportionately affects disadvantaged school students.
The term “Off Rolling” is one that not many people outside of the education sector would be familiar with. For those that are familiar, they know it is an abhorrent practice that often occurs within the English and Welsh state-maintained Education system. As defined by Ofsted, Off Rolling “is the practice in the United Kingdom, of removing disadvantaged and struggling pupils from the school roll, before they take their final exams so their poor results are not included in the school statistics”. It is relevant to note that there is no actual legal definition of this term, leaving room for varying interpretation by individual teachers and educational settings. As a student who was off rolled myself, I can speak from personal experience as to how difficult of a process it is for both the student and their families or guardians.
This practice is becoming increasingly more common as the agenda of academisation is being pushed, but there is little thought given for the rising trend in the relationship between Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and Off Rolling. As conducted in a recent YouGov study, in partnership with Ofsted, it is more likely that Off Rolling would occur in a Multi-Academy Trust setting, as opposed to a Local Education Authority setting. There are major issues around the actual ambiguity of what constitutes Off Rolling, not only in a physical sense but also in where to draw the line regarding the coercion that many students and families face when being Off Rolled. The lack of a formal definition is also a considerable issue, particularly when students that have a poor behavioural and academic record that are being pushed towards Off Rolling.
82% of all teachers believe that pupils with behavioural issues are at the highest risk of being Off Rolled, with a number of teachers acknowledging that an overlap exists between students that exhibit behavioural issues, SEN students and those with low academic attainment. Looking more towards specific categories of students, when asked what type of student is more likely to be Off Rolled, teachers answered that it was incredibly more common for male pupils to be Off Rolled, as opposed to female pupils. Many teachers also believe that Off Rolling is on the rise, and that there needs to be a greater amount of education surrounding it, both for staff and parents.
I noticed that there were in fact no group that existed with the sole interest of standing against off rolling and advocating for policies and measures to completely eradicate off rolling from our education system. So what do we as a campaign stand for? Well as our primary goal, we aim to eradicate Off Rolling in its entirety by advocating for policies and measures that will limit it to the greatest extent possible. As a secondary goal, we aim to educate students and their parents and guardians about Off Rolling, by offering resources to spot it and giving platforms to off-rolled students and their families.
We will be working with individual schools, their governing bodies, MATs, Local Councils, Members of Parliament, All Party Parliamentary Groups, both Shadow and Government Ministers for Education, and many many more people to discuss how we can implement measures and policies to minimise and eradicate Off Rolling within schools and academies. We will also be offering a platform to publish the stories of off rolled students and their families, to give them even a small sense of justice.
We are a brand new campaign, so we are looking for volunteers to help us out in anything that they can. Whether you’re social media savvy, or skilled in research, perhaps communication competent, or you just care about helping protect the future of disadvantaged students, drop us an email at [email protected] and we will be in touch!
(All statistics quoted in this piece can be found in the 2019 YouGov “Exploring the issue of off-rolling” On behalf of Ofsted.)
You can follow the campaign on Twitter at @OffRolling.
Andrew McDonald is the Campaign Director and Founder of the Campaign Against Off Rolling. Before starting this campaign he worked on several by-election campaigns, both council and parliamentary. In a former life, Andrew was the Political Reporter for the Wolves of Westminster and the Political Editor of The London Financial. He tweets at @AndrewM3105.