Plagued by the need to stay well up in the league tables in order to attract pupils, and therefore funding, and therefore to survive, state schools have naturally enough engaged in all kinds of underhand methods to boost their statistics of ‘success’. Ubiquitous is the habit of ‘off-rolling’ students who are unlikely to do well in exams:
“One in ten pupils has been removed from the school roll without explanation at some point by the time they are due to sit GCSEs, a report reveals. The practice goes on to some extent in most schools, it claims.
“More than 61,000 pupils, or 10.1 per cent, who were due to sit the exams in 2017 had been removed without explanation at some stage in their secondary education. This was up from 9 per cent in 2014.
“Nearly all large multi-academy trusts had higher than average rates of unexplained exits and most also had above-average rates of permanent exclusion, according to the report by the Education Policy Institute….
“Schools have been accused of ‘off-rolling’, which can result in difficult or low-achieving pupils whose GCSEs would bring results down being removed unofficially.
“The institute looked at local authorities and multi-academy trusts and said that in both cases there were ‘multiple school groups with very high rates of unexplained pupil exits’.
“Vulnerable pupils were more likely to leave without explanation; it happened to 30 per cent of children in care, 27 per cent of those with mental health needs, 16 per cent of poorer pupils and 14 per cent of those from black backgrounds” (Nicola Woolcock, ‘One in ten pupils off rolled before GCSEs’, The Times, 11 October 2019).
At the same time, Nicola Woolcock reveals in another article that “more than one in four secondary-aged children [are] receiving extra help, up from less than one in five in 2005. Tutors charge about £25 an hour but rates are said to be as high as £40 in some areas” (’80,000 state teachers give private tuition’, The Times, 26 September 2019). While the 25% of families who can afford it are by hiring private tutors making up for the shortcomings of state education caused by austerity, children from the 75% of families who are poorer are left to sink or swim.
Meanwhile we are told that primary school children are being taught in some cases by a single teacher in classes of as high as 67, sitting like students in a lecture theatre because cash-strapped primary schools are packing pupils into giant classes to boost their budgets.
A school receives between £3,500 and £5,000 a year for each child. As a result, over 559,000 primary pupils were taught in “super-size classes” of more than 30. In parts of northwest England — including Oldham, Bury, Trafford and Tameside — a quarter of primary children are being taught in such big classes, as per-pupil funding encourages heads to fill their classrooms.