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Education secretary Damian Hinds attacks schools that ‘off-roll’ special needs pupils to improve league table rankings

6 July 2018 1,097 views No Comment

‘I want to be clear right now – this is not okay. Special educational needs pupils are not someone else’s problem’

Eleanor Busby Education Correspondent Independent
The education secretary has spoken out against the practice of “off-rolling”, which sees schools exclude children with special educational needs through the back door – often in order to improve their league table position.

Damian Hinds made the intervention after hearing what he said were “many stories” of schools using informal exclusions to get rid of pupils with educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and prevent them from applying for places through “pre-emptive exclusions”.

“I want to be clear right now – this is not OK. SEND pupils are not someone else’s problem. Every school is a school for pupils with SEND, and every teacher is a teacher of SEND pupils,” he said.

Special needs children being asked to stay at home when inspectors

There has been a “movement” of children with special needs out of mainstream schools – with some entering specialist or alternative provision, and others being home schooled, Mr Hinds added.

The minister told a conference in Manchester: “All schools and colleges – alongside central and local government – have a level of responsibility here, it cannot just be left to a few.”

Off-rolling has become an issue of growing concern for schools watchdog Ofsted amid claims that schools are playing the system and getting rid of students who might bring down their GCSE results.

A report last month found that thousands of children in England are missing from official education statistics after being removed from schools before they sit their GCSEs.

In the study, researchers called for school league tables to be weighted to take into account the amount of time a child had spent at each school to reduce the practice – but it is unclear at this stage what action the Department for Education will take to crackdown on the practice of off-rolling.

But Mr Hinds said in his speech to directors of children’s services that he wanted to work with Ofsted to ensure schools were rewarded for working with vulnerable pupils who need more support.

Council leaders and education unions have been calling on the government to urgently boost funding to ensure they can place pupils with special needs and provide the right support.

Addressing the wide gap in outcomes for children with SEND and their peers in his speech, Mr Hinds said he recognised that councils and schools were “feeling the pressure when it comes to budgets.”

“While we had record investment in the education for children with complex SEND at £6bn this year, it’s clear that budgets are under pressure. And, frankly, this is difficult – I can’t say today that I have all the answers. But I am listening to your concerns,” he said.

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