St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School, a Voluntary Aided selective school in Orpington, has refused to allow about 16 of its Y12 pupils to enter Y13 because they didn’t get top marks in AS level or equivalent internal exams, the Guardian reports.
A lawyer acting for the families of the ejected pupils said the parents’ grievance was based on the premise that St Olave’s was ‘operating an unlawful policy’.
Department for Education guidance* is clear: it is NOT lawful to exclude pupils for a ‘non-disciplinary reason’ such as excluding pupils on grounds of academic attainment or ability. This includes pupils in school sixth forms except stand-alone sixth form colleges or 16-19 academies.
In a separate article, the Guardian quoted an anonymous St Olave’s teacher who felt pupils were ‘being treated as collateral damage in pursuit of league table position’.
League table pressure is being blamed for an alleged increase in this dishonourable practice. But it’s also the case that a school’s reputation is boosted when it can boast a string of top grades at A level. Pupils unlikely to attain this high standard would damage a school’s marketing.
Ejecting Y12 pupils who don’t attain the highest grades is in the sole interest of the school. This unethical behaviour has the double advantage of potentially lowering grades of A level pupils in neighbouring schools and colleges. A win-win for schools who taking these dubious steps. But it's devastating to the pupils concerned who, as one father told the Guardian, are being dumped like 'old garbage'.
The majority of schools are obliged by law to observe DfE guidance* which prohibit exclusion based on academic ability or attainment. Schools which do so are therefore breaking the law.
But there are a few exceptions*. In 2014, the London Academy of Excellence (LAE) was accused of culling pupils who weren’t ‘Russell Group ready’ after exams in Y12. But the much-praised free school isn’t covered by DfE exclusion guidance because it’s a 16-19 academy. This loophole should be removed: all state-funded schools whatever their structure must be subject to the same exclusion rules. Allowing certain schools to ignore exclusion guidance is not acting in the best interests of pupils.
*There are two guidance documents. One, dated 2012, sets out guidance up to 31 August 2017. The other begins 1 September 2017. Both are clear: it is NOT lawful to exclude pupils for a ‘non-disciplinary reason’ such as excluding pupils on grounds of academic attainment or ability. This rule covers all pupils, including those attending nursery classes or sixth forms, in all state schools in England except City Technology Colleges, city colleges for the technology of the arts, sixth form colleges or 16-19 academies.