Teachers' revolt at leading grammar school that axed students before A-levels

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The head and governors of a top London grammar school that withdrew the places of several A-level students because of poor grades are facing an open revolt from angry teachers. 

Staff at St Olave’s in Orpington have told of their “discontent and disagreement” with the policy which caused the parents of some of the excluded boys to launch legal action.

After damaging publicity and a warning from ministers, the school backed down and invited all those affected to rejoin. But staff at the high-performing boys grammar, which takes girls in the sixth-form, remain mutinous and have demanded an inquiry into how the rule was introduced in the first place. In a letter to headteacher Aydin Önaç, school governors, parents and Bromley council they expressed their “dissatisfaction” with the way the crisis was handled. 

They called for a public meeting at the school to resolve the “enormous tension” that has arisen among staff, students and parents. Critics believe the policy was designed to keep the school high in the league tables. 

The letter from the St Olave’s Staff Association, seen by the Standard, said the majority of teachers present at a meeting of 50 staff last week were unhappy with the school leadership. Maire Sullivan, chairwoman of the staff body, wrote: “There was overwhelming support for an expression of discontent and disagreement with that particular policy; dissatisfaction with the way the challenge to the policy was handled by the governing body and resentment at the way the headmaster presented his interpretation of events. We believe that communication and openness were stifled and that challenges to the headmaster were dismissed in order to pursue an unlawful course.”

After the school held emergency talks with teachers yesterday, Mr Önaç said: “Governors will be meeting as soon as possible to discuss these matters. In the meantime I am grateful to the dedicated staff team for all that they continue to do at this outstanding school.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Students enrolled in a sixth-form cannot be removed because of academic ability. The law is clear on this and we expect all schools to follow it. We have reminded headteachers of their responsibility on this point.”


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