Schools and FE colleges that have applied for the exam results of pupils with serious illnesses, or who are home educated, to be “disapplied” from performance data, on the grounds that teachers cannot reasonably be held responsible for their outcomes, are increasingly seeing their requests rejected.

This follows publication in September 2018 of new, tougher, guidance on the evidence required to authorise the removal of pupils from school performance data.

The key changes introduced in the new guidance are as follows:

Section A: Pupils with long term illness (Page 5)

The guidance now requires schools to name the hospital that a pupil has attended or to provide proof that they were sectioned.

(Former section D: ‘Pupil has frequent or long periods of non-attendance’ has been permanently completely removed)

Section E (formerly section F): Elective Home Education (page 9)

Section E now contains a new note that if the EHE was agreed after the January 2018 census, information/evidence of action and strategies taken by the school to persuade the parents to keep the pupil in school should be uploaded in support.

(Former section G: ‘Pupil has been permanently excluded from school (if awaiting appeal outcome)’ has been completely removed

(Former section H: ‘Pupil moved school due to safeguarding/fair access placement’ has been completely removed)

Section G: add back pupils (page 11) 

The new section G confirms that schools do not need to provide third party evidence to cancel an add back pupil in the following circumstances:

  1.  Recently arrived EAL pupil
  2.  Emigration
  3.  Death
  4.  On roll for completion of KS4 studies at another school

Effect of the new guidance

The Department for Education maintains that the guidance was updated to provide further clarity, and maintains that removal should only take place in “exceptional circumstances”.

However, many schools and FE colleges have criticised the Department for issuing what appear to be blanket refusals in response to requests for disapplication, without adequately considering the merits of each and whether they might in fact be "exceptional". For example, educational establishments have recently reported requests for disapplication being rejected in the following scenarios:

  •  Where a pupil had been in hospital for six months and didn't sit any exams
  • Where a pupil had only 21% attendance due to suffering from a severe medical condition
  • Where two pupils were in police custody on the day of their exams
  • Where a pupil was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, or
  • Where pupils who had suffered from mental illness and substance abuse, and who had been strongly encouraged to leave their former schools, were transferred to a new school.

In light of such recent decisions, head teachers and principals are fearful that the tightening of rules will force them to become less inclusive, as it becomes more disadvantageous to enrol students with an illness or disability including mental health conditions.

What next?

If this is an issue that has recently affected your school or FE college, and you would like advice on how to challenge the decision taken, please contact our education law expert Polly Sweeney by email: or by phone on (044) 0370 1500 100.