‘Keep top schools under scrutiny’
Paul Francis Political Editor
Schools should be monitored more closely over whether they are ejecting under-performing sixth form students to boost their standing in league tables, according to a campaign group.
The Kent Education Network, which opposes grammar schools, said KCC should oversee what policies secondary schools adopted over sixth form students who did poorly in AS exams in Year 12.
Claims that some of Kent’s top secondary schools encourage under-performing students to leave have come under renewed scrutiny after parents started legal proceedings against St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington.
The action was brought by families who believed their children had been excluded after their first year in the sixth form for doing poorly in AS exams.
However, the school has now offered to take back the students it asked to leave – avoiding what could have been an embarrassing court case.
Publicity surrounding the St Olave’s case is reported to have triggered dozens of similar complaints from parents elsewhere including Kent.
In a separate development, the Department for Education underlined that schools could only exclude pupils for disciplinary matters, not for poor standards.
It issued a statement saying: “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-discipli- nary reasons is unlawful.”
Jo Bartley, of the campaign group Kent Education Network, said KCC should be more pro-active monitoring schools, although the power of authorities over academies is limited.
“Some schools clearly care more about their position in the league tables than the welfare of their pupils. It is definitely something that should be monitored and KCC should be doing it.”
Peter Read, a former Kent grammar school headteacher and education consultant, was one of the first to flag up the issue.
He questioned last year the number of students who had left two of the county’s top-performing schools – Invicta Grammar School and Maidstone Girls Grammar.
He said there were suggestions, firmly denied by the schools, that students who did not secure top grades in their AS levels were encouraged to leave as a way of the schools maintaining their reputation for A-level results.
“Schools are under pressure to deliver results. What they are doing is forcing children out… There’s something very, very wrong.”
Independent education adviser Peter Read flagged up problems surrounding the number of pupils leaving top-performing schools