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’.
‘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.