Thousands of pupils experienced “unexplained” moves

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report into the prevalence of school moves, including managed moves.

It found that thousands of secondary pupils experience a school transfer which does not appear to be driven by family decisions.

34,000 pupils finishing year 11 in 2019 – around six per cent of the cohort – experienced at least one unexplained school transfer at some point during their five years of secondary school. These moves did not occur due to any family reason that the EPI could detect in the data.
30,600 secondary pupils (around one per cent of all pupils in secondary schools) experienced an unexplained school transfer during the 2018/19 academic year.

Vulnerable pupils and those from some demographic groups are at increased risk of unexplained school transfers.

Overall, one in seventeen pupils in the cohort finishing year 11 in 2019 experienced at least one unexplained school transfer.

However, this is compared with almost one in five pupils with an identified social, emotional or mental health need; one in seven pupils who were persistently absent; and one in ten pupils who were ever looked after by the local authority, designed as a ‘child in need’ or persistently disadvantaged. And almost one in ten pupils were from Black ethnic groups.

There is significant variation in rates of unexplained school transfers between local authorities.

Local authority rates of unexplained school transfers in 2018/19 ranged from 0.4 to 2.5 per cent of all pupils in the area.

There is significant variation in the approach to managed moves taken by local authorities. In the EPI's analysis of each local authority’s fair access and managed move protocol, it found that one in five local authorities did not have a managed move protocol, for example, a separate document or section of a fair access protocol laying out processes for managed moves.
Some LAs treat managed moves as a last resort, whilst others used them as part of a supportive strategy specifically for children with additional needs.

The report also found that many managed moves do not result in stable placements in new schools.

Only around a quarter of local authorities held data on outcomes following managed moves happening across schools in their area. According to data from these LAs approximately three in five managed moves in secondary schools in 2018/19 resulted in the pupil returning to the home school. Some pupils went on to experience another move (22 LAs reported this), a permanent exclusion (19 LAs), or a move into home education (10 LAs) or AP (seven LAs).

The EPI recommends that a central data reporting system which captures all moves and the reasons for them, including managed moves and moves into home schooling, should be introduced. This would enable better monitoring and research of inclusion, including for children with protected characteristics, who are at increased risk of unexplained exits from the school system and moves between schools.
Local authorities should monitor outcomes for pupils who experience managed moves, as our findings suggest that for many, a managed move may be the beginning of a process of exclusion from mainstream education which results in additional moves, permanent exclusion, or a move into alternative provision.

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