Grammar school ignores DfE legal guidance and ejects Y12 pupils for low exam grades

Janet Downs's picture

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.  

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 30/08/2017 - 15:54

Janet - This sort of thing has been going on for years, as you pointed out here

Section 2.3 of my book, 'Learning Matters' refers to a BBC Newnight story.

On 16 January 2011, BBC Newsnight featured unofficial exclusions from Academies and the effect this was having on the proportions of pupils not entered for GCSE English and maths.

The BBC had researched the following data based on the 2010 GCSE results:

In Academies 3.5 percent of pupils were not entered for English and maths GCSEs compared to 2.0 percent in Local Authority Community Schools.

21 percent of Academies had fewer than 95 percent of pupils attempting English and Maths GCSE (more than double the proportion of any other school type). 9 percent of academies had fewer than 90 percent of pupils attempting English and Maths GCSE (more than triple the proportion of any other school type). 2 percent of academies had fewer than 80 percent of pupils attempting English and Maths GCSE whereas all other school types had zero percent of schools which fall within this bracket.

Unsurprisingly, more spirited persistent pupil failures tend to become alienated and disruptive and they may then degrade the teaching/instruction/cramming/revision environment for all the E/D graders that the school is desperately trying to get up to a C. As permanent exclusion is too risky with OfSTED, a solution is to ‘get rid’ by arranging various forms of ‘alternative’ off-site education.

The BBC Newsnight programme featured an example of a female student with a Statement of Special Educational Needs placed on a programme in which mainly boys were taught various cognitively undemanding craft skills in an off-site unit run by an ex-army officer. She was not allowed to attend any classes at her Academy school and so she was not entered for GCSE English or maths in year 11.

A headteacher on the programme admitted that such practice was common and described it as an example of, ‘the dark arts’ of headship.


Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.