U-turn after Y12 Bourne Grammar pupils told ‘not in their best interests’ to join Y13

Janet Downs's picture

Bourne Grammar School, Lincolnshire, has reinstated Y12 pupils who were previously ‘advised’ it wouldn’t be in ‘their best interests’ to carry on their studies after poor Y12 exam results.

The decision was prompted by the censure heaped on another grammar school, St Olave’s, when it ejected Y12 pupils in similar circumstances.  

Bourne Grammar, which appeared in the first Tatler guide to the ‘top’ state schools, acted to avoid the possibility of legal action.  

In a letter seen by the Telegraph, John Maddox, head of Bourne Grammar School said, 

‘…the Chair of Governors has agreed that I may suspend our published policy on progression from Year 12 to Year 13 for progression this year.’

I have been unable to find the ‘published policy on progression’ on the school’s website. But the information given after last year’s Sixth Form Open Evening gave no indication pupils would have to leave if their Y12 results were low.   It says pupils can start AS subjects in Y12 and ‘then continue’ to A levels in Y13.

In any case, it is not up to the Chair of Governors to agree that pupils who perform badly in Y12 exams may or may not progress from Y12 to Y13 this year or any year.  The law is quite clear: it is illegal to exclude a pupil from a state-maintained secondary or all-through school on grounds of academic ability.  The only legal grounds for exclusion are disciplinary.  

The law applies to ‘all maintained schools, academy schools (including free schools but not 16-19 academies), alternative provision academies (including alternative provision free schools), and PRUs [Pupil Referral Units]’. 

There are exceptions: ‘city technology colleges, city colleges for the technology of the arts, sixth form colleges or 16-19 academies’.  These loopholes should be plugged. It is immoral for any educational establishment to stop pupils continuing on courses they have begun because their academic achievement didn’t reach a school-imposed standard.

That’s what appears to be happening at a much-praised sixth-form centre in Newham. Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre (NCS) didn’t issue timetables for the Autumn term to 19 pupils following AS results, Schools Week reports.  NCS told Schools Week:

 ‘Every decision we take is always in the best interests of our students, and we want all our students to have the greatest chance of success.

It’s hard to see how the best interests of students are served by refusing entry to Y13 or how they will have the greatest chance of success if they are excluded half way through a course.  Schools which do this, even when the law allows them to do so, are not acting in the best interests of their students but their own.  Pupils ejected because they might reduce a school’s headline A level results are being treated as garbage – valued only for their results.

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