School makes policy U-turn

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Bourne Grammar School has changed its policy on barring pupils from progressing to Year 13 because of poor AS-level results amid fears of a judicial review and anger from parents and students.

Some students at Bourne Grammar School were told that if they achieved less than three Ds at AS-level that they would not be able to continue their A-levels at the school in South Road.

But after the issue was covered in national newspapers over the weekend, it was revealed that the school’s policy was not in line with guidance from the Department for Education, which states students enrolled in a sixth form cannot be removed because of academic ability.

In a letter sent to pupils who were asked to leave following their AS-levels last month, headteacher Jonathan Maddox said reports of a forthcoming legal challenge to a different school “could have a bearing” on Bourne Grammar’s policy.

The letter said: “In the light of this and with the best interests of our students foremost, the chairman of governors has agreed that I may suspend our published policy on progression from Year 12 to Year 13 for progression this year.

“This means that those students who were advised, following receipts of AS-results, that it would not be in their best interests to progress into Year 13 at this school may now return, should they wish to.”

As well as explaining the policy U-turn, Mr Maddox said work in Year 13 was more demanding than in Year 12, AS and A-levels are now “more academically challenging” and the content studied at AS-level represented 40 per cent of the overall A-level content.

It was also explained in the letter that predicted A-level grades to support university applications will be based on AS grades achieved.

Many parents of the affected students contacted the Mercury to express outrage at the previous school 
policy.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said he was “utterly appalled” at the way his child has been treated, adding: “It is the most unwelcoming letter, they basically said “you are still rubbish, you are still not going to get the grades”.

Another furious parent said they thought the U-turn was as a result of the school trying to avoid legal action.

And another mum said that the students had just “been dumped by the school” and treated with “disdain”.

All three parents told the Mercury their child would not be taking up Mr Maddox’s offer of returning to the school because of the way they have been treated.

A DfE spokesman said: “All schools have a responsibility to provide a high-quality education to every pupil and ensure there is no limit to their potential. 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 will be taking action to remind headteachers of their responsibility on this point.”

Mr Maddox declined to comment when contacted by the Mercury this week.