Leeds: School off-rolling inquiry set to restart in November

leeds civic hall
Leeds Civic Hall

Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter

The next stage of Leeds City Council’s investigation into the controversial issue of so-called ‘off-rolling’ will hear from pupils and families affected by school exclusions, a document has claimed.

The inquiry, by the authority’s Children’s Scrutiny Board, has been running since 2019, and aims to look into the practice, as well as the prevalence of school exclusions across the city.

Off-rolling refers to when schools remove troublesome pupils from their rolls, meaning their exam results will not count towards the school’s league table figures.

It has been suggested that one way schools can do this is by putting pressure on parents to electively home-school their child part-way through their GCSE year.

A document, set to go before a meeting of the board next week, claims the inquiry is now expected to restart in November this year.

The inquiry will hear evidence from witnesses, including senior figures in Leeds City Council, school headteachers, young people who are home educated, and young people who have had “first-hand experience of being excluded from school, including young offenders”.

The board is expected to agree the terms of the inquiry at a meeting next week, before the next evidence session takes place in November this year.

Previous meetings of the committee had heard how school pupils in Leeds were often put in internal exclusion (also known as “isolation”) as the numbers who were did not have to be reported.

During the first part of the inquiry, one school professional had even claimed pupils were being put into isolation for things as trivial as “eating some rolos”.

At a meeting in July this year, Leeds City Council’s head of service learning inclusion Val White had also told councillors that the number of children being handed fixed term exclusions – also known as suspensions – was increasing most dramatically in the poorer areas of the city.

Speaking at that meeting, she said the numbers of home educated pupils appeared to be rising and were “significant”, but added this may also be due to new factors, such as anxieties around the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have seen yet again the numbers of elective home education rising,” she said. “We have now got about 900 young people being electively home educated in the city. The normal figure for Leeds is about 650 per year.

“That is a significant number. Through Covid it rose to about 840 – now it is rising yet again.”

According to the council’s own statistics published last November, the number of individual fixed term exclusions in Leeds secondary schools during the 2018/19 academic year rose to 5,733 from 4,485 the previous year – an increase of nearly 30 per cent.

Around 16,630 individual school days were lost by secondary pupils to fixed term exclusions in 2018/19.


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