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Thursday, 03 August 2017 20:24

Advice on Sixth Form Non-admission and Exclusions: Maidstone Girls' and Invicta Grammars

UPDATE 3, 2nd September: A Government Ministerial statement has said the action by St Olave's is unlawful. The school has withdrawn its decision to  expel the boys, and offered them places back in Year 13 to resume their studies. You will find the update here.   

UPDATE 2, 30th August: This scandal is unravelling fast. The Guardian followed up with a second story today, with more to come, and I am commenting on Radio Five in an item at 5.20 this evening. Question, will St Olave's and other schools operating this Unlawful action, or seek to drag it out?

UPDATE 29th August: At last this story has been picked up by the National media with an article in The Guardian reporting on the scandal of the unlawful expulsion of about 16 students from St Olave's Grammar School in Bromley for failing to get high enough grades at the end of Year 12. Several of these families had already asked my advice, which you will find below, but it is now confirmed by lawyers engaged by the families. It remains a hard road, as schools can introduce delaying tactics into the new term, so that families are forced to make alternative arrangements. However, if case law is established as I have encouraged in my initial article, this unlawful practice can be stamped out. Certainly, at Invicta Grammar, as a direct result of my campaign, Invicta has removed any reference to conditional admission to Year 13, and I have heard from no victims this year. Presumably this all leaves the school open to legal action from students unlawfully expelled last year.


Back in January, the Kent Messenger headlined an article with ‘Maidstone: Headteachers of Invicta Grammar and MGGS rubbish unlawful admissions claims(comments at the foot of the article).

This was in response to my website article: ‘Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions’ exposing the unlawful practices at both schools . The article attracted an unprecedented 23,717 visitors to date along with enquiries from across the country and localunlawful  and national media. With GCSE and AS results time coming up shortly, this second article is written to help advise families who find themselves in similar situations.

invicta        MGGS

With regard to the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the Local Government Ombudsman will be publishing a decision in September, which is currently embargoed, but I am able to offer advice below to families placed in a similar situation.

The Headteacher of Invicta Grammar School  made the ridiculous claim that all 22 girls who left Year 12 from the school last summer did so of their own accord, having failed to achieve the school’s high expectations at AS Levels. This has been powerfully refuted by over twenty testimonies from girls who were forced out in this and previous years, mostly published as comments to be found at the foot of my previous article. Although this practice is not uncommon in other schools, although rarely on this scale, no one has challenged my claim that such permanent exclusions are illegal, including the Department of Education. I explore the rules that confirm this, below. 

So, hardly rubbish in either case; instead very serious issues for the students concerned, for whom neither school appears to have had any pastoral care or responsibility.

Maidstone Grammar School for Girls and admission to Sixth Forms
My complaint to the Ombudsman included the allegation that the school had used an unlawful set of criteria for prioritising Provisional Offers for Sixth Form places, before GCSE results were known. You will find further details in my previous article. Prior to the Ombudsman’s decision being published, I am able to advise external potential students who have not been given a provisional offer for the MGGS Sixth Form, or indeed at any school, to make sure that the school has followed the published oversubscription rules.

External Sixth Form applicants for any school, who have been forecast to achieve the laid down academic criteria for admission, should all be considered for places. Then, if numbers exceed the published intake figure places must be offered according to the school’s published oversubscription criteria. The school cannot impose additional rules, such as selecting high performers if these are not specified. 

Unfortunately, with oversubscribed Sixth Forms receiving external applications from students attending a variety of schools, each of these schools may use different methods for forecasting performance,so the procedure is hardly objective. In most cases, it is likely to be in the form of a reference from the current school, but the only factor that can be taken into account is the GCSE forecast. Reports about attendance, behaviour or attitude to work are irrelevant. If you are concerned about the nature of this reference, ask to see it.The statutory government School Admissions Code, Paragraph 2.6, provides the rules for admission to Year 12, allowing the school to set academic entry requirements. Unfortunately it makes no reference to the system of provisional offers, which therefore have no legal standing, but can make practical sense. 

At GCSE publication time, if all available external places are taken up by students who have correctly been offered provisional places and have gained the required grades, that would be an end to it, except you have the right of appeal if unsuccessful. Otherwise the school can fill up with other students who have qualified by virtue of their meeting the GCSE standard. Again, anyone has the right of appeal to an Independent Appeal Panel, although this can take up to 30 school days to organise. If an appeal is upheld, the time lag does mean that the new student will start the A Level course very late, which is a strong disadvantage.

You will find more information about Sixth Form Appeals here.

Invicta Grammar School
Invicta Grammar has consistently claimed that all 22 Year 12 students who left last summer went by their own choice, rather than be forced out as they were not on target for high grades at A level. This has been rubbished by the large number of these young people who have testified in comments published at the foot of my previous article, or directly to me. Also consistently, most affirm that they received no helpful guidance on leaving, although some were referred to Invicta’s partner school, Valley Park, which then turned most down! Some who can afford it have found places in private schools as the state system has let them down,  including one of my advertisers Rochester Independent College., Others have sadly left education completely being unable to find an alternative.

This is of course part of the drive to deliver on the claim to be ‘The Best School in Maidstone’, as claimed on the school website, with 69% A-B Grades at A Level, compared to 52.9% nationally. In practice, this difference would be fully accounted for by losing the lowest performing 15% of students at the end of Year 12, year on year, coupled with one of the net lowest grammar school staying on rates in the county into the Sixth Form at 92%. In total, a net 40 students left Invicta from this cohort at the end of Year 11 and 12 together, the highest figure for any Kent grammar school and nearly a quarter of those who set out in Invicta at the age of 11.  In addition, and remarkably, a further five girls went missing before GCSE registration in Year 11, the highest figure for any grammar school - see article. With this level of loss of students from each of the senior years, most of whom would probably score lower Grades at A Level, the school could hardly fail to see its remaining students perform highly. 

It will of course be very interesting to see how many current Year 12 students leave ‘voluntarily’ this  summer, although any encouraged to do so, should take comfort in the school’s reassurances provided in my previous article. These include ‘The School does not stipulate to students that they are 'not allowed' to remain in the School for Year 13’. 

The wider picture on Year 12 departures
Whilst Invicta is the worst culprit in Kent, it is certainly not alone, and you will find a list of other high excluding schools in Kent and Medway in my previous article. I use the word ‘excluding’ deliberately, for according to Department for Education regulations, the only way a student can be removed from a school, apart from at the end of Year Eleven if they do not achieve published academic grades to follow through, is by Permanent Exclusion, for serious poor behaviour. Whilst a number of schools across the country set academic performance requirements for continuation into Year 13, in order to improve A Level performance grades, there appears no legal justification for setting such a barrier, which is why Invicta turns somersaults to avoid saying so.

At least one national newspaper tried to  get a response from government on this question following my article last year, but failed to do so.  

My advice if you are placed in such a situation is to require that the decision is put in writing. At Invicta, the school appeared reluctant to do so. You should also ask which government ruling allows this to happen (good luck with that one!).

The regulations
The statutory government School Admissions Code, Paragraph 2.6, provides the rules for admission to Year 12, allowing the school to set academic entry requirements. However, it makes no reference for any criteria to be set for entry to Year 13.

The Government Policy Document: ‘Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England’ makes clear, Section 13, that ‘It is unlawful to exclude for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because ….or for a reason such as: academic attainment/ability’.

It also records that the regulations apply in full to school Sixth Forms.

Quite simply, there is no other regulation by which removal of a student for failure to meet academic targets at the end of Year 12 can be justified.

If this happens to you, you will have the right to complain to the School, using the Complaints procedure, that what has happened is unlawful. If when this has run its course and you are unsuccessful with your complaint, you have the right to complain to the Secretary of State if the school is an academy. This of course takes time, and if you can get the decision overturned then the A Level course may be well underway and it will be impractical to join late.

You also have recourse to the courts, and a decision here could establish case law, and make it easier for others in the future, also providing clear guidance for government (I have no legal background and so am happy to be corrected on this one).  

I hope this is helpful. 

Last modified on Sunday, 10 September 2017 11:55

9 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 13 September 2017 09:05 posted by Joanna

    Invicta apologise for ruining the careers of our daughter and other girls, and then denigrate them by calling them liars. You must be joking. Thank you for the advice. We are now seeking legal advice.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 03 September 2017 18:09 posted by Miranda F

    From a very grateful St Olave's parent. Please excuse if I don't give my proper name; it has been very difficult for those of us unable to afford legal help. I have seen you have been fighting this illegality for six months and provided the initiative for the St Olave's parents to challenge the decision. My son's life fell apart when he was thrown out of the school he loved. Whether he will ever trust the school again remains to be seen, but at least he is back - thanks primarily to you.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 30 August 2017 07:00 posted by Anon

    This has been going on for years. Schools know that parents send there children to high performing schools. Some schools use this method and some used to make children take 'easier' subject like four DT gcse's for example. It's been around for at least 26 years. We used to mark the old style entrance tests in the staff room also. We knew who would pass the year before they took them as we used a mock test the children did in year 5 to inform the entrance board of their predicted grades. PETER: Yes but this is different, with schools deliberately and unlawfully expelling students after six years in the school because their projected grades don' t meet the school profile.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 23 August 2017 09:35 posted by kent grammar parent

    I am thrilled to be able to report another success for your advice. My daughter attends a Kent grammar school so we thought it best not to mention your name.

    We were told she could not go into Year 13 as her marks suggested she would not get good grades and D's and E's weren't worth having. We made yout arguments on Fridayhad a phone call yesterday leading to a tough interview with the Deputy Head. I can only say she tried to bully us out but in the end admitted it was our choice. For obvious reasons we dont want to be identified but know we would never have stuck it out without you behind us. Thank you. PETER: My pleasure.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 August 2017 09:13 posted by Isobel

    Dear Peter, Thank you so much from rhe bottom of my heart. My son is at a high performing comprehensive school ouside Kent and was told he had not done well enough to carry on into the Upper Sixth. We printed off your article and took it to show the head of KS5. He took it to the head. She advised us that if my son carried on to ALevel he would only get low grades. We thanked her for her advice but said he wanted to carry on. No Problem. Why isn't this more widely known? PETER: Why not indeed. But no guarantees this will work! Indeed it could backfire.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 09 August 2017 22:48 posted by Jo Bartley

    This issue was looked at nationally by Education Datalab, and it's good news that the DfE is going to be recording sixth form retention rates as part of performance tables.

    If it's measured and recorded I hope it deters schools from doing this.

    http://educationdatalab.org.uk/2017/08/measuring-two-year-retention-post-16-what-does-it-show/ PETER: If Invicta is anything to go by, this new government statistic will not deter them in the slightest! Whilst the article you quote is of interest, and two fairly self-evident conclusions drawn, the fact remains that it is individual school policies that are the biggest factor, and these will vary enormously between schools with apparently very similar profiles. I am disappointed the article did not address the legality of evicting students at the end of Year 12. Why is it that no one else wishes or appears prepared to express a view?

  • Comment Link Sunday, 06 August 2017 16:47 posted by Jenny Whatmough

    So can you be clear. Are you stating that both schools have broken the law. If so, what is the penalty? PETER: I am barred from giving a verdict on MGGS until the Ombudsman decision is published (although you can read my opinion in my previous article), but if the school has broken the law there will be no penalty, apart from possible public criticism which will soon be forgotten. Never mind any students who may have lost out! With regard to Invicta, they appear to blatantly break the law, governors who are responsible for monitoring their standards clearly don't care about the children for whom they are responsible, as long as the school produces eye catching exam performance. There appears no way they will pay any penalty, or even a mechanism by which this could happen - see Comment below.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 05 August 2017 23:43 posted by A Collins

    I have read many of your recent articles and it seems schools these days are a law onto themselves! How in 2017 this is allowed to happen I struggle to understand. Accountability seems no longer to be there schools don't seem to have to have to answer to anyone and this perhaps explains some of the increases in Home Educated children not by choice but left with no other option! Where do parent's go when they are let down by the current system of Education? I personally feel Academies have had a negative impact as LA's have little or no powers over them. If our Education system is failing now what will it be like in 10 years time......PETER: Where indeed do they go, although although I have to say our Local Authority, which several times has tried to set out 'Champions of Children' as its watchword, has itself too often failed to deliver.

  • Comment Link Friday, 04 August 2017 22:56 posted by Disillusioned parent

    Outrageous. You are clearly alleging that MGGS behaved illegally last year in choosing highest scorers to offer places to. They denied it, and I believed them, so when my daughter was not offered a place in the Sixth Form, I accepted this as a fair decision. It is clear from what you say that the Ombudsman has agreed with you, so the school has lied. What sanctions can be brought against them? PETER: I am not able to comment on the Ombudsman's decision until it is published next month, but as you can see I am happy to offer the above advice! If they are shown to have lied, the governors must decide if anyone has behaved badly. Otherwise, sadly, there is no accountability. This is education today, for as so many of my other articles demonstrate, lying by schools does not appear to be a crime any longer!

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