Waltham Forest is losing the highest percentage of its pupils right before exam season of any other local authority in the UK.

Between 2017 and 2018, the council’s schools lost 5.27 per cent of their pupils in the year before their GCSEs, the highest percentage of any council in the country.

Nationally, there has been a huge rise in the number of students leaving their schools in the lead up to GCSEs.

A total of two per cent of England’s Year 10s and Year 11s left their schools this year, while in 2011 that figure stood at 0.1 per cent.

Some of these children are said to have moved to home education, others to specialist schools and others to pupil referral units.

But the national Guardian newspaper has reported there are also fears that struggling students are being struck off registers to maintain schools’ league table positions, in a tactic known as “offrolling”.

Cllr Grace Williams, Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, believes it would be “misleading and unhelpful” to attribute the decrease in pupil numbers to any one factor.

She said: “We are committed to doing all we can with our partners to investigate and tackle at root the reasons why a minority of students leave education at this key stage. There are a number of factors which are affecting this reduction.

“Some of these factors include students moving to alternative provision and natural mobility, with pupils moving abroad or into other areas of the country, and some families in the private rental sector having to move due to short-term tenancies.”

The cabinet member added the council is working with schools, parents and carers to support 14 to 16-year-olds through their pre-GCSE schooling and to help them achieve success.

Emma Hillman, head teacher of Heathcote School and Science College in Chingford, expressed her surprise at the trend.

She said: “I am very surprised to hear this as headteachers in Waltham Forest schools are hugely inclusive, solution-focused and supportive to pupils in Year 10 and 11, pulling out all the stops to keep children in education in their schools or, in very few cases alternative vocational provision in the best interests of pupils.”

The headteacher added that to comment any further would be inappropriate as “there could be many factors” driving the decrease in pupil numbers.

She explained that since September 2018 none of her school’s Year 11’s have left.

The headteachers of Walthamstow School for Girls and Walthamstow Academy did not respond to requests for for comment.