‘Mortified’ grammar governors didn’t know exclusion law – that’s unacceptable

Janet Downs's picture
 7

Governors of St Olave’s grammar school were ‘mortified’ they had ‘probably’ broken the law when they asked A-level pupils with low Year 12 exam results to leave, the Times* reported yesterday.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.  But school governors should not be ignorant of exclusion law.  Neither should local authorities. Nor should dioceses.  St Olave’s is under the stewardship of a local authority and, as it is a faith school, also under the care of the diocese.  Neither the LA nor the diocese seem to have monitored St Olave’s sufficiently robustly to ensure the school was not doing anything which broke the law.

The law is quite clear: it is not lawful to exclude pupils for non-disciplinary matters.  These non-disciplinary matters include academic attainment.  The law extends to pupils before and after compulsory schooling.  And it applies to all schools including ‘independent’ academies.  There are a few exceptions**.  These should be stopped.

The Guardian received complaints from parents of Y12 pupils at schools across England which suggest that this unlawful policy of ejection post Y12 exams is quite common especially in areas where grammar schools still exist. 

But removing pupils because of low attainment doesn’t just affect selective schools.  And there are suspicions that it happens lower down the school. Laura McInerney, editor of Schools Week, reminds us that some schools appear to be offloading low-attaining pupils by suggesting they be home-schooled.  And Warwick Mansell has been investigating ‘disappearing’ children – the sudden drop between Years 10 and 11 at certain schools – since 2014. 

It’s encouraging that the new chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon,  has criticised attempts by schools to improve exam results by denying certain pupils ‘the chance of equality of access’.  He told the Guardian that such practices go ‘against everything that education should be about’.

In his latest blog post, Professor John Howson, says education means ‘to draw out not to kick out’.     He ends by saying:

The Secretary of State should now reaffirm the purpose of state education as developing the potential of every child entrusted to the State by their families.

I second that.

*2 September 2017 behind paywall

**City Technology Colleges, city colleges for the technology of the arts, sixth form colleges or 16-19 academies are exempt from exclusion law.

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Comments

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 03/09/2017 - 12:36

Janet - This is nothing like as clear as it appears. The school's misdeed is not 'illegal exclusion', but failing to run a comprehensive sixth form. I am sure that had it gone to court the case against the school would have been thrown out.

"The law is quite clear: it is not lawful to exclude pupils for non-disciplinary matters."

But my understanding is that the students were not excluded. They were offered Y13 BTEC courses, because in the school's view the students were not academically suited to the school's Y13 A2 courses. Many so-called comprehensive schools do not permit their lower attaining KS4 students to take GCSEs other than English and maths. Once again the way out is to have a range of BTEC alternatives.

The motives of the schools are clear. It is all about 'academic reputation' and league tables

Before the 1988 Education Reform Act, when the education of our schools was 'a basic right' to which all children were entitled, the culture of all schools was , 'what can our school do for our pupils'. Any state school that failed to operate that culture would be called to account by the LEA, the officers of which were themselves answerable to the democratically elected councillors on the education committee.

Now that education is marketised, it has become not an entitlement, but a commodity, access to which is controlled by independent school providers (Academies and Free Schools). Their success depends on their status in the market, and this depends not on what their schools can do for their pupils, but on what their pupils can do for their schools. This too is the morality of St Olave's, which is not an Academy, but a state grammar school.

However, it is not just our students that are the losers. When I took my A Levels in 1965, the standard offer of the Russell Group universities to pure and applied science degree courses (eg engineering) was CCC. There were plenty of higher education options available to those with EE, the minimum A level qualifications needed to qualify for fee-free admission to universities and access to a means tested maintenance grant. Employers were queuing up to take on 18 year-olds with A Level grades ranging from A to E. They recognised that sixth form courses were as much about cognitive and personal development, and for individual students such gains were invaluable, regardless of the final grade achieved. We all gained from the resulting improvements in the cognitive ability and general level of education of the population. Such gains (the Flynn Effect) have now gone into reverse in the US and UK, where marketisation has most seriously corrupted their education systems. See

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/nature-nur...

'Disidealist' (a sadly missed teacher who gave up and left the profession) wrote a blog about this principle, which applies as much to KS4. I used his blog to write this article.

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/the-girl-w...

Marketisation is a thoroughly evil, rotten and ultimately dysfunctional basis for running a national education system. It is often argued that given the hold that Academisation now has on the education system, such schools have to be accepted as a 'fact of life' and the role of a future Labour government would be restricted to fiddling about round the edges to regulate the worst excesses.

While it is clear to me that the 1988 Education Reform Act will have to go and Academisation (along with grammar schools) with it

However, I am no fan of revolutionary change. I set out a step by step way forward here.

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/a-step-by-...


Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 03/09/2017 - 13:31

Sorry, - last para got garbled.

While it is clear to me that the 1988 Education Reform Act will have to go and Academisation, along with grammar schools, I am no fan of revolutionary change. I set out a step by step way forward here.

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/a-step-by-...


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 04/09/2017 - 09:54

Roger - the Guardian reported that places for those pupils who didn't do well in their Y12 exams had had Y13 places withdrawn.  Parents and pupils were scrambling around looking for alternatives.  A separate Guardian article cited parents who said Y12 pupils had been placed in three sets.  The third set, those who did poorly in internal exams, were 'out'.   That would amount to unlawful exclusion.  The head denied this - saying telling a boy to 'continue studies elsewhere' because he didn't reach the Y12 'floor standard' was not exclusion.  The head then told the parent that if they 'insisted' their son continue at St Olave's he would be offered a GNVQ in Health and Social Care.  This was later changed to a BTec - presumably after the head discovered GNVQs were obsolete having been last awarded ten years ago.  

Sky reports that the DfE has now warned all English schools that removal from a sixth form on grounds of academic ability is forbidden:

"The law is clear on this and we expect all schools to follow it. We will be taking action to remind headteachers of their responsibility on this point."

 


Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 04/09/2017 - 15:19

Thanks Janet - Your information is fuller than mine. A lot would hinge on what the students were actually promised at the end of Y11. AS is normally a Y12 course and A2 is a Year 13 course. In my view it would be perfectly reasonable for a head to say to a student who did very badly (eg fail) at AS, that A2 in Y13 would not be in the best interests of the student. St Olaves's appear to have done something very different in seeking to offload students judged not capable of achieving the top grades. As I argue in my comment, A Levels are graded with passes from and including E upwards. The cognitive and personal development of an E grade student at the end of Y13 may well be significant. Neither are E/D/C grades at A Level worthless in terms of progression or employability. I just think it is important to criticise the school for their clear lack of concern with the interests of their students (rather than the interests of the school).

As for making removal of a student from any year of a state school on grounds of ability illegal, then fine. I suggest that the DfE and OfSTED start taking this seriously, because there is massive evidence that the practice has been widespread for years especially in Academies. However this is not the same as moving a student from a less suitable to a more suitable course. Given appropriate consultation with teaching staff/parents/student etc this is surely a prerogative that rightly belongs to a school. I am unimpressed by DfE's macho 'chest thumping' given its complete inability and apparent lack of interest in properly regulating many forms of malpractice in Academies and Free Schools.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 05/09/2017 - 08:48

A cynic might say the DfE's 'chest thumping' was influenced by St Olave's being an LA maintained school and not an academy.  It's been mighty silent before.  It's even praised the free school London Academy of Excellence for its results when it was known that it culled students after Y12.  But LAE is a 16-19 school and exempt from exclusion law.  Any  exemption is unacceptable and, as I argue above, should be ended.

 


agov's picture
Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:03

"A lot would hinge on what the students were actually promised at the end of Y11."

Is that a legal opinion?

"it would be perfectly reasonable"

Who said it isn't?

"it is important to criticise the school for their clear lack of concern with the interests of their students"

Which seems to be what everyone was doing.

"As for making removal of a student from any year of a state school on grounds of ability illegal"

Seems that it already is and has been for years. That would kinda be the point. No matter how ignorant grammar school governors may be.

"Given appropriate consultation"

Apparently not what happened.

"a prerogative that rightly belongs to a school"

Who challenged that?

"I am unimpressed by DfE's... "

So should it support this illegal action because it fails to act against other misbehaviour?


Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 05/09/2017 - 10:15

I thought it was clear that I was not in any way defending the school. I am also making the point that the DfE and OfSTED have completely failed to uphold the principle that schools should exist for the benefit of their students not the other way round and that what St Olave's was doing is a consequence of the culture of marketisation, the worst effects of which can be found in Academies and Free Schools, but which now contaminates the entire English education system.


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