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C of E grammar school faces criticism for removing under-performing A-level pupils

31 August 2017


Legal challenge: St Olave’s C of E grammar school, Orpington

Legal challenge: St Olave’s C of E grammar school, Orpington

A CHURCH OF ENGLAND grammar school, St Olave’s and St Saviour’s, Orpington, in Greater London, has been criticised after it was reported that 16 A-level pupils had been removed because they did not achieve a minimum of three B grades in their exams this summer.

Parents of the pupils have begun a legal challenge, first reported by The Guardian this week, saying that removing students who were due to begin their final year at the school this month, having completed their AS exams, was a form of exclusion.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the families have applied for a judicial review, to be heard on 20 September. Their case has been supported by the Department of Education, which states that schools cannot legally deny students a place in the final year to complete their education based on grade attainment.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said on Wednesday: “Our regulations make clear that schools are not allowed to remove pupils from a sixth form because of academic attainment once they are enrolled. Excluding pupils temporarily or permanently for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful.”

St Olave’s has not commented on the case.

It is one of two C of E grammar schools in the country (the second being Wilson’s School, an all-boys grammar in Sutton). A spokesman for the C of E declined to comment, however, saying that it was a matter for the school.

The diocese of Rochester whose education board is responsible for St Olave’s, has also been contacted by the Church Times for comment. The Rochester Diocesan Board of Education, alongside the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, and the Chapter of Southwark Cathedral, are among those responsible for electing its school governors.

St Olave’s, founded in 1571, is a high-achieving school with competitive entry. Its A level students achieved 96 per cent A*/B grades on results day this month — considerably higher than the national average. Of all A level grades, 75 per cent were at A*/A — a slight increase on the previous year — while 32 students gained straight A* grades in at least three subjects.

GCSE grades, released last week, were also high at the school, with 90 per cent of pupils achieving A*/A, or the new levels of 9/8/7, in maths and English.

The Conservative MP for Orpington, Jo Johnson, said in a statement on Wednesday that despite being “proud” of its achievements, he had concerns about the dismissals, which he had raised both with its headmaster, Aydin Önaç, and the minister of state for schools, Nick Gibb.

“St Olave’s is a highly selective school and I obviously have no problem with having a GCSE entry requirement for a sixth form — but once pupils are in on that basis, it is surely for the school to push them to do well, not to throw them out (unless their behaviour is bad).”

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