School accused of unlawfully removing sixth form students for failing to achieve high grades

[Source: Redd Angelo/Unsplash]

St Olave’s grammar school in Orpington, southeast London, has been accused of acting unlawfully by throwing out 6th Form students who failed to get top grades in AS and equivalent internal exams ahead of their final A-level year, according to an article in The Guardian.

The paper reported that some 16 pupils were told their places for year 13 – the last year of school – had been withdrawn after they failed to get the required three Bs. Other students were told they would be allowed to continue on a discretionary basis and were asked to sign a contract warning that if they did not get a minimum B grade in their mocks the school reserved the right not to enter them for their A-level exams.

Lawyers acting for two of the affected families have issued judicial review proceedings against the school’s governing body, also naming Bromley, the local authority responsible for maintaining the school, as an interested party. A hearing has been set for 20th September.

Education experts say a number of other schools – including other high-achieving grammars – are employing similar tactics to ensure the best possible results, but it is thought to be the first time the issue been challenged in court.

Education lawyer Imogen Jolley, of Simpson Millar, said it was generally accepted that withdrawing a school place at the end of year 12 amounted to an exclusion, which, in the case of a local authority maintained school – as St Olave’s is – would be governed by Department for Education exclusion guidance. Under the guidance, it is only lawful to exclude a pupil on disciplinary matters. It states clearly that it is “unlawful” to exclude for “a reason such as academic attainment/ability”.

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