School governors and trustees in England should be asking school leaders more searching questions about ‘disappearing pupils’ according to the chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, Emma Knights.
As reported in TES, Emma was speaking at the Bett Academies show in Birmingham earlier this month when she cited a report published by Education Datalab. The report showed 125 schools would have seen their GCSE pass rate fall by 5% or more if the league tables were re-weighted according to how long pupils had stayed at a school.
Emma warned that some pupils seem to be being "managed out" of mainstream secondary schools to “game” the league tables in their favour.
Emma has also blogged about this subject in the past, saying: “These very headteachers who no doubt use the phrase ‘moral purpose’ are systematically moving out pupils who will hurt the school’s performance table ranking. Surely their governing boards monitor this. If they haven’t been, this research reinforces the need to do so and not accept excuses for why so many pupils are leaving the school…There are clearly schools which are not there for all.”
Speaking at Bett, Emma said that in recent years much has been made of need for effective governance but not enough about ethical governance. She said: “it’s phenomenally important that we are holding our senior executives to account. Governing boards need to ensure that unethical behaviour does not take place. For example, those schools that have an awful lot of pupils disappearing, for want of a better phrase, in years 10 and 11, what were the boards doing about that? You can see from the numbers that that is happening. Why weren’t they asking questions?”
Emma later added: “It does make you wonder what these boards are doing. We really scrutinise the data, and you can see if in one year you had 150 [pupils] and in the next you have 120. I think what probably happened was some of the schools said it was mobility and the governors accepted that without digging down. You have to keep questioning. The research shows the weakest governing bodies are those that accept what the headteacher or CEO says. It highlights the need for triangulation.”
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Concern about pupils being ‘managed out’ of secondary schools
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