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Underperforming A-level pupils will no longer be removed, says C of E school St Olave’s after wave of protest

08 September 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 reversed its decision to dismiss 16 A-level pupils who did not achieve a minimum of three B grades in their exams this summer.

Parents of the pupils began a legal challenge, first reported by The Guardian last week, saying that students had the right to return to the school for their final year, having completed their AS exams, and that to prevent this was a form of exclusion.

A statement issued by the diocese of Rochester on Friday evening announced that the school had reconsidered. It read: “Following a review of the school’s policy on entry to Year 13, the headmaster and governors of St Olave’s Grammar School have taken the decision to remove this requirement, and we have today written to all parents of pupils affected to explain this and offer them the opportunity to return to the school and continue their studies.

“Our aim as a school has been, and continues to be, to nurture boys who flourish and achieve their full potential academically, and in life generally. Our students can grow and flourish, making the very best of their talents to achieve success.”

St Olave’s is one of two C of E grammar schools in the country (the other being Wilson’s School, an all-boys grammar in Sutton). The Rochester Diocesan Board of Education, alongside the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, and the Chapter of Southwark Cathedral, are among those responsible for electing its school governors.

No further comment was available from Rochester diocese, and a spokesperson for the Education Division at Church House, Westminster, said that it was a matter for the school.

St Olave’s, founded in 1571, is a high-achieving school. Its A-level students achieved 96 per cent A*/B grades this year: higher than the national average. Of all A-level grades, 75 per cent were at A*/A, while 32 students achieved straight A* grades in at least three subjects.

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

Parents complained to The Guardian that they were now “out of pocket”, having secured places for their children at independent schools, and that the reversal did not solve issues with the school’s leadership.

Lawyers acting on behalf of two families had applied for a judicial review against its governing body, set to be heard on 20 September. Their case was supported by the Department for Education, which stated: “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.”

The Conservative MP for Orpington, Jo Johnson, welcomed the school’s “sensible move” to allow the sixth-form pupils to return. He had raised concerns about the dismissals with its headmaster, Aydin Önaç, and the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, last week.

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