Croydon academies 'weeding out' GCSE students to improve grades

Harris Academy South Norwood saw the highest proportion of GCSE students leave

Harris Academy South Norwood saw the highest proportion of GCSE students leave

First published in News
Last updated
Croydon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

The mystery of "disappearing" pupils at academies has sparked claims poorer performing teenagers are being "weeded out" to boost grades.

GCSE student numbers dropped sharply at four Croydon academies in the 12 months before sitting the exams last year, provoking a Croydon Council investigation.

The four - Harris academies in South Norwood and Purley, Quest in Selsdon and Oasis Shirley Park - together saw twice as many pupils leave than every other school in the borough combined.

Harris Academy South Norwood, where 14 per cent of its 2012 Year 10 pupils had left the school before sitting GCSEs in Year 11, saw the biggest proportion leave.

Oasis Academy Shirley Park saw the largest exodus, with student numbers plummeting from 220 in Year 10 to 196 the next year, according to school census data.

The council confirmed last week it had asked the Department for Education for further information on falling numbers at some of Croydon's academies, although it would not confirm which ones.

The four academies with the biggest drops lost a combined 67 pupils from last year's GCSE cohort, compared to a total of 34 across the rest of the borough's 19 state-funded schools.

Almost all schools saw minor fluctuations in pupil numbers, but the four academies concerned all reported disproportionate drops.

At Quest, enrolled pupils fell 10.9 per cent between Years 10 and 11, while Harris Academy Purley lost 13 students, equivalent to 7.8 per cent of the year group.

Monique Ribeiro, who sits on the management committee for a federation of five pupil referral units that provide places to excluded Croydon students, said academy providers were known to freeze out troublesome youngsters.

She said: "They go in, they want to make it an academy, they need the figures to look good, they weed out the naughty students and all of a sudden they have this very good school with a good reputation".

Although Ms Ribeiro stressed the practice was "not new", academies' increasingly dominance of Croydon's secondary school landscape has caused concern among critics.

Fourteen of Croydon's secondary schools are either academies or in the process of becoming one.

None of the four academies with large drops permanently excluded an usually high number of student last year.

According to figures published by the council, Quest Academy expelled four students across all year groups; Oasis Shirley Park excluded three and Harris Academy South Norwood excluded two.

But Ms Ribeiro said: "It is not just exclusion rates, it is pupils not sitting exams so proportionally their numbers look good.

"Grammar schools have done that for years and so have comprehensive schools, especially some of our Catholic schools.

"Some of them might do managed moves rather than exclusion, because you need to have a good excuse to exclude a pupil now."

David Clark, headteacher at Archbishop Lanfranc School, agreed it would be "a false premise" to assume exclusions were the only way of removing students from a school's roll and urged the council to establish how and why students were vanishing from some academies.

He said: "I am pleased the matter of 'the disappearing pupils' seems to be being explored more thoroughly than has been the case when the issue has reared its head previously.

"If pupils are being removed from school rolls for less than good reasons, it raises more serious questions about a climate and system which encourage people to the view that it is OK to do so."

David Clark, headteacher at Archbishop Lanfranc School

He added: "I am sure the interest in the possibly disappearing children has been prompted by the performance tables and what is being interpreted as an attempt to manipulate the data regarding results.

"What needs to be understood however is that, if children are being removed from school rolls without following due process, this represents a major safeguarding issue which is potentially more significant than league table positions."

All three academy providers said fluctuations in their pupil numbers occurred naturally.

A spokeswoman for Harris Federation, which runs six schools in Croydon, said: "Everyone knows and accepts that London is a particularly turbulent part of the country and that many of its schools have to deal with this on a year-by-year basis.

"When families move away from an area we always do our best to make sure their child can remain in school, but this is not always possible."

An Oasis spokesman said many of its pupils had "a higher degree of transience than average," adding: "This, in turn, can and does cause fluctuations in numbers as a cohort progresses through an academy."

Oasis's second Croydon academy, in Coulsdon, saw a slight increase in Year 11 pupil numbers last year.

A Quest Academy spokeswoman suggested the drop last year had been a one-off "historical hangover" from the school's conversion from Selsdon High.

A spokesman for the DfE said: "Under no circumstances should a school remove a pupil from its roll on the basis of their academic potential or results.

"All schools must follow clear regulations when removing a pupil from their roll."

Have you or has your child been forced to leave a school or academy in Croydon? Call the newsdesk on 0208 722 6351 or email chris.baynes@london.newsquest.co.uk.


TODAY'S TOP STORIES

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:10am Sun 2 Mar 14

christhegoth says...

You need to be careful with Academies. Some are trying to bring back the Grammar system, and have an entrance exam which allows them to cherry-pick the smartest ( Harris springs to mind ). Much as many of the smartest come from poor backgrounds around here the fact the school can only take the smartest IS a problem. It artificially distorts the image it creates of Academies vs State Schools.

Schools like Trinity only take the smartest. Grammars in Sutton only take the smartest. Normally the smartest are those who have had home tutoring, which means their parents have cash. In Sutton only 3% of Grammar School kids get Free School Meals. It's mostly wealthy kids in those schools.

Freebies for The Rich? Yes, that's what I am worried about. Only wealthy people can afford to move to the right catchment area after all. Your average joe just isn't that mobile.

This isn't levelling the playing field and removing the post-code lottery. It's helping wealthy people create little pockets where they can milk local services. Elitism, as they have the cash needed to play the state system.

And that means The Poor are left with the scraps.

I don't mind smart-kids getting into the fast lane. My problem is that only rick-kids can get into teh fast-lane in some places. What if the cure for cancer or schizophrenia was locked up in the mind of a New Addo nipper? Without the right schooling ( to unlock the nipper's potential ) we'll never get that cure.

We need to be soooo careful here. We can't let wealthy people exploit the system. Let them have the Trinity places. They can afford to pay after all. In a world of finite resources we need to be more honest on this one.
You need to be careful with Academies. Some are trying to bring back the Grammar system, and have an entrance exam which allows them to cherry-pick the smartest ( Harris springs to mind ). Much as many of the smartest come from poor backgrounds around here the fact the school can only take the smartest IS a problem. It artificially distorts the image it creates of Academies vs State Schools. Schools like Trinity only take the smartest. Grammars in Sutton only take the smartest. Normally the smartest are those who have had home tutoring, which means their parents have cash. In Sutton only 3% of Grammar School kids get Free School Meals. It's mostly wealthy kids in those schools. Freebies for The Rich? Yes, that's what I am worried about. Only wealthy people can afford to move to the right catchment area after all. Your average joe just isn't that mobile. This isn't levelling the playing field and removing the post-code lottery. It's helping wealthy people create little pockets where they can milk local services. Elitism, as they have the cash needed to play the state system. And that means The Poor are left with the scraps. I don't mind smart-kids getting into the fast lane. My problem is that only rick-kids can get into teh fast-lane in some places. What if the cure for cancer or schizophrenia was locked up in the mind of a New Addo nipper? Without the right schooling ( to unlock the nipper's potential ) we'll never get that cure. We need to be soooo careful here. We can't let wealthy people exploit the system. Let them have the Trinity places. They can afford to pay after all. In a world of finite resources we need to be more honest on this one. christhegoth
  • Score: 4

11:24pm Sun 2 Mar 14

elizabethan says...

The federation's spokesman in this article infers to children/families moving away as to the reasons for the decline in students. Would this not apply to all schools? Sadly let's draw our memory back to the BBC news night broadcast on 16/1/2012 which also names this very said academy. In black and white we have an email clipping displayed on this show from the head teacher suggesting another school is sought for a student. This clearly shows the bullying tactic being used against a student. http://tinyurl.com/o
a455az Also having experienced the complaints process being via the federation's board as being a complete shambles with no independent body to complain to other than ultimately the 'Secretary of State'. However the 'Secretary of State' will not intervene unless the funding agreement has been breached. How vulnerable does that leave families/children where something has gone amiss and bullying occurs not between children but with adults to children? There is also the much known fact that statistics show temporary exclusions by far are multiplied within academies in comparison to state schools. If statistics prove a reduction to students on role prior to the gcse years, why is this only the case with a certain academy/foundation? It does not take a great deal of thought to read into why there is such a decline with the same federation and at the critical time for any student being immanently prior to the gcse years 10 and 11. There is a clearing process just prior to these years for unwanted children for various reasons and it makes me extremely happy albeit too late for my son that this is being investigated. With my personal circumstance, my son was bullied out of this foundation with a head teacher asking the question as to 'why are you still here'? My cries as an individual against such a big federation left me feeling very isolated but with the real life knowing facts/experience of what is happening within Academies and this critical and timed clearing process. I sincerely hope these statistics have brought something to light and the outcome secures the welfare of our children. With these very said children being the next generation of the future.
The federation's spokesman in this article infers to children/families moving away as to the reasons for the decline in students. Would this not apply to all schools? Sadly let's draw our memory back to the BBC news night broadcast on 16/1/2012 which also names this very said academy. In black and white we have an email clipping displayed on this show from the head teacher suggesting another school is sought for a student. This clearly shows the bullying tactic being used against a student. http://tinyurl.com/o a455az Also having experienced the complaints process being via the federation's board as being a complete shambles with no independent body to complain to other than ultimately the 'Secretary of State'. However the 'Secretary of State' will not intervene unless the funding agreement has been breached. How vulnerable does that leave families/children where something has gone amiss and bullying occurs not between children but with adults to children? There is also the much known fact that statistics show temporary exclusions by far are multiplied within academies in comparison to state schools. If statistics prove a reduction to students on role prior to the gcse years, why is this only the case with a certain academy/foundation? It does not take a great deal of thought to read into why there is such a decline with the same federation and at the critical time for any student being immanently prior to the gcse years 10 and 11. There is a clearing process just prior to these years for unwanted children for various reasons and it makes me extremely happy albeit too late for my son that this is being investigated. With my personal circumstance, my son was bullied out of this foundation with a head teacher asking the question as to 'why are you still here'? My cries as an individual against such a big federation left me feeling very isolated but with the real life knowing facts/experience of what is happening within Academies and this critical and timed clearing process. I sincerely hope these statistics have brought something to light and the outcome secures the welfare of our children. With these very said children being the next generation of the future. elizabethan
  • Score: 1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree