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Managed moves: Track pupils’ outcomes, councils told

Councils should monitor outcomes for pupils who experience “managed moves” out of schools and involve an “independent” representative of children’s best interest in their administration.

Education Policy Institute research found tens of thousands of pupils have “unexplained” moves out of school each year, with poorer pupils more likely to be involved.

At least some of these “unexplained” exits are managed moves. These are allowed when agreed between heads, parents and pupils, but constitute off-rolling if not in a pupil’s best interests.

No consistent data on managed moves is collected. So the EPI sought to identify “unexplained” moves – those that “do not appear” to be driven by family decisions or circumstances.

Of pupils finishing year 11 in 2019, around 34,000, or 6 per cent, experienced around 37,000 moves between schools at some point during their five years of secondary school.

These moves “did not occur due to any family reason we could detect in the data”.

Among the 2,959,950 pupils registered in a secondary school, the report found around 30,600, or 1 per cent, experienced unexplained moves in 2018-19.

‘Significant variation’ between areas

While data “does not tell us whether these moves would all meet the definition of a managed move”, this second figure “provides an upper bound estimate of the number of managed moves occurring in secondary schools across the country in 2018-19”.

But data was only obtained from 66 councils. This mean the lower estimate of managed moves in secondary schools was just over 5,300.

According to the minority of local authorities which held data, at least one in six of all “unexplained school transfers” identified were managed moves.

Rates of moves also ranged between areas from 0.4 to 2.5 per cent of all pupils.

James Bowen, assistant general secretary of the NAHT leaders’ union, said managed moves, “done in the right way, can be positive for all parties”.

“However, it is important that there is a clear policy and protocol for managed moves.”

Disadvantaged children more affected

Disadvantaged pupils “disproportionately” experienced unexplained moves.

One in seventeen pupils overall experienced such a move. But almost one in five pupils with a social, emotional or mental health need did so. One in 10 looked-after pupils or persistently-disadvantaged pupils did so.

There was also inconsistency in how councils handled moves. One in five did not have a protocol for managed moves.

Some treated them as a “last resort”, not be used for the most vulnerable pupils. Others said they were “employed as part of a supportive strategy specifically for children with additional needs”.

‘Lack of regulation’

Last year, guidance was updated to state schools should evidence initial interventions before making such moves. Councils should also be involved in moves of pupils with SEND support plans.

But new guidance and “ongoing lack of regulation do not address the lack of transparency in and oversight of the managed move process”.

Whitney Crenna-Jennings, associate director for mental health, wellbeing and inclusion at the EPI, said the research “reveals worrying trends”.

“Our analysis also exposes inconsistencies in the approach taken to managed moves across different local authorities and makes clear the need for an evidence-based approach, with greater oversight and monitoring of outcomes to identify best practice.”

The recommendations…

  • A central data reporting system which captures all moves and the reasons for them, including managed moves and moves into home schooling
  • Councils should monitor outcomes for pupils who experience managed moves
  • Greater transparency for local processes for administering managed moves
  • Clearer advice around ‘best practice’ for managed moves and the cases in which they should be used
  • Government guidance and policies around responses to behaviour challenges should be informed by the evidence around how to best support “young people with mental health, emotional, and behavioural needs”
  • Local processes for administering managed moves should involve an independent representative of the child’s best interests

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