St Olave’s u-turn on pupil exclusions

St Olave's u-turn on pupil exclusions

A grammar school ejecting pupils in the middle of their A-levels has backtracked on its severe exclusions policy, saying all pupils affected can return to the school to finish their studies.

St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington was revealed by The Guardian last month to be forcing out pupils who were not achieving the highest grades, halfway through their A-level courses.

The paper discovered that around 16 pupils had been told their places for the final year of school had been withdrawn, after they failed to get three Bs in their AS or equivalent internal exams.

According to Department for Education exclusion guidance, local authority maintained schools are only allowed to exclude pupils because of behavioural issues, and it is unlawful for pupils to be sent away because of factors such as attainment.

Parents of pupils at St Olave’s have sought legal action in response to the measure, with lawyers issuing judicial review proceedings against the school’s governing body on behalf of affected families. A hearing date is set for September 20.

St Olave’s is one of England’s highest achieving schools, with 96 per cent A* to B grades in its 2017 A-level results and 32 students gaining straight A*s in at least three subjects, according to its website.

The Guardian’s investigation said the exclusion practice at St Olave’s could be being carried out at a number of high-achieving schools across England, with the aim of boosting results and therefore league table positions.

St Olave’s leadership and governing body have declined to respond or comment publicly since The Guardian’s revelations were first published on August 29, but a statement was issued on the school’s behalf by the diocese of Chichester.

It said: “Following a review of the school’s policy on entry to year 13, the headmaster and governors of St Olave’s grammar school have taken the decision to remove this requirement and we have today written to all parents of pupils affected to explain this and offer them the opportunity to return to the school and continue their studies.

“Our aim as a school has been and continues to be to nurture boys who flourish and achieve their full potential academically and in life generally. Our students can grow and flourish, making the very best of their talents to achieve success.”

Some parents and pupils affected have claimed they will be unlikely to return to the school, despite its climb down on the exclusions. Others remain undecided, having already looked into alternative options for continuing A-level courses elsewhere.

One parent told The Guardian they had already spent money on an attempt to secure a place for their child at another school.

“We’re happy they’ve accepted the fact that it was wrong. We’re happy because it won’t happen again. But we’re confused now, because we all looked at plan B, and we’ve got to start thinking twice now,” he said.

“We’re financially out of pocket, because we took the plunge to continue education with the way we thought was the best way, by going independent. We were rushing around trying to find the money.”

The school’s headmaster Aydin Önaç has yet to comment on the matter.