Schools Off-Load Low Achieving Students to Boost League Table Ranking

Low achieving students are being off-loaded by schools in England in order to boost their league table rankings according to a report published by the think-tank Civitas last month. It found that low achieving students with bad behaviour are more likely to be transferred than higher achieving students with bad behaviour.

A survey of 16 local government authorities revealed that low-achieving pupils who were unlikely to boost their school’s league table scores were more likely to be expelled and transferred to alternative education provision than other students. It stated:

The school is thereby free of any bad behaviour of those pupils, and anything that those pupils achieve in alternative provision is regarded as a ‘bonus’ for that school.

In contrast, schools hang on to higher performing students even if their behaviour is bad:

Conversely, the incentives for schools to hang on to intelligent students, no matter how bad their behaviour, is strong. This is hardly a just state of affairs, but the fundamental source of this problem is the pressure on schools to achieve high examination results.”

The report says that “the fundamental source of this problem is the pressure on schools to achieve high examination results.”

In England, the system of alternative education provision provides an option for schools to transfer unwanted students in order to boost their results. Usually students in alternative education provision they have either been permanently excluded from mainstream school, or were at risk of being permanently excluded.

The Civitas report says that the system is open to serious abuse as students can be referred to alternative education provision by gaining the agreement of parents and without schools having to go through the process of permanently excluding a student from a school.

The problem….is that mainstream schools are able implicitly to threaten to permanently exclude the student, or subject the student to a referral, if their parents do not agree to the move. This leaves the potential for unscrupulous head teachers to make use of referrals and managed moves to get rid of challenging students without the need for a permanent exclusion.

The report recommends that permanent exclusion from schools should be abolished and that a system of special off-line education be introduced for students with challenging behaviours.

Trevor Cobbold

Tom Ogg and Emily Kaill 2010. A New Secret Garden? Alternative Provision, Exclusion and Children’s Rights. Civitas.

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