South Lincolnshire schools confirm non-exclusion policy after Year 12 AS-Levels

Bourne Grammar School made headlines nationally after changing its policy on allowing students to stay on in Year 13 after poor AS-Level results in Year 12.  Photo by Lee Hellwing.
Bourne Grammar School made headlines nationally after changing its policy on allowing students to stay on in Year 13 after poor AS-Level results in Year 12. Photo by Lee Hellwing.
  • Heads back ‘regular testing, advice and guidance’ after exam row
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Head teachers across South Holland, Bourne and the Deepings have revealed that they operate a non-exclusion policy in cases of poor AS-Level exam results.

Spalding Grammar School, University Academy Holbeach, Bourne Academy and The Deepings School all confirmed that a combination of regular testing, alternative courses and “independent advice and guidance” is used to help students.

This school has always sought to put its students first and, as such, we have some students who end Year 12 with E/U grades and our response is not to turn them away but to welcome them back - if that is their considered desire

Steven Wilkinson, Headmaster of Spalding Grammar School

It comes after Bourne Grammar School made national headlines last week when it emerged that Year 12 students asked to leave its sixth form due to poor AS-Level results were invited back due to legal pressures.

Some parents of those students affected got in touch with our sister newspaper, the Stamford Mercury, to accuse Bourne Grammar School of treating their children with “disdain” having “been dumped by the school”.

In a letter to the students, head teacher Jonathan Maddox said that those who were told it “would not be in their best interests to progress into Year 13 at this school may now return should they wish to”.

Steven Wilkinson, headmaster at Spalding Grammar School, said: “Given increasing external pressures on schools to produce only outstanding examination results, the attraction of trying to protect those results by preventing students who underperform in Year 12 from progressing to Year 13 is understandable.

“Fortunately, this school has always sought to put its students first and, as such, we do not have any academic criteria for progression, even though that position may impact negatively on our headline statistics.

“Our efforts go in to trying to ensure that the right students embark on the right courses at the outset.

“Inevitably though, a small minority of students do not perform as well as we would hope and, in those circumstances, we will continue to have conversations with them, and their parents, about whether continuing is the most sensible course of action.

“However, any decision not to progress is made in the best interests of the student and reached by mutual consent.

have some students who end Year 12 with E/U grades.

“Consequently, we have some students who end Year 12 with E/U grades but our response to that is not to turn them away, but to welcome them back – if that is their considered desire – and to put in place robust intervention and monitoring arrangements in order to support those students in achieving the best that they can.”

Steve Baragwanath, principal at University Academy Holbeach (UAH), said: “We find the key to success in this area is the independent advice and guidance that students are given once they have their GCSE results.

“It needs to be remembered that there are many routes to success, not just A-Levels, and eventual degree level qualifications which can involve technical certificates, City and Guilds, BTEC qualifications, apprenticeships and, eventually, degree-level apprenticeships.

“Students are tested regularly throughout their course so that any success or otherwise should not come as a surprise to anyone by the end of year 12.

“If we found that a student had found their course too challenging and they were unsuccessful, then we would counsel them and offer alternative routes if one was available.

“The schools that have been highlighted in the national press recently have apparently not allowed students with grades lower than B’s at AS-Level to progress onto the full A level.

“In contrast, any students with such grades would have been actively encouraged to continue with their A-Level studies into year 13 at UAH.”

Richard Lord, head teacher at The Deepings School, said: “We are very flexible in our approach and aim to ensure that opportunities are open to all students who want to continue their studies in our Sixth Form.

“A-Level study is extremely demanding and if we have any concern about whether this type of study is suitable for an individual student, we offer support, advice and guidance to them and their parents accordingly.

“Sometimes this means making sure we have the right support in place to help that student achieve an A-Level pass or above in their chosen subject(s) and, sometimes, that means offering alternative courses more suited their interests and ability.

“If a student is at risk of not achieving a pass grade in a subject, their situation is reviewed by a Sixth Form Transition Panel who will consider each case and advise them regarding progression into Year 13 in that subject.

“In the event of a student not continuing with a subject, alternative courses are offered, always ensuring that both students and parents are kept informed so that all possible transition options can be considered, with each individual student’s interests paramount.

“Following advice and guidance, a small minority of students may choose to leave our Sixth Form centre to enter the world of work or to start an alternative course elsewhere.

“These numbers are so low due to the time and effort in ensuring that students are enrolled onto the most appropriate courses for them.”

Laurence Reilly, executive head teacher at Bourne Academy, said: “In the majority of cases, the AS grades confirm that the current curriculum is meeting the students’ needs and no changes are needed.

“However, a low AS grade can act as a ‘wake up call’ for students who have ‘coasted’ in Year 12 and need to increase their work rate in Year 13.

“It can also indicate that a student is on the wrong programme and needs to switch from an A-Level to a BTEC Level 3 programme, either partially or wholly, and take advantage of the flexible post-16 curriculum at Bourne Academy.

“Occasionally, students themselves decide to leave the sixth form before the end of their two-year course to take up a Modern Apprenticeship as this is often the best development for them, particularly for those not planning to go on to university.

“We recognise that, with the raising of the age of compulsory education to 18 in 2015, there is a

requirement for schools to regard sixth form entry as a two-year commitment.

“The fact that we provide comprehensive information, advice and guidance following the GCSEs in Year 11 and prior to

joining our sixth form, helps us keep underperformance in Year 12 to an absolute minimum.

“It may well be that, in discussion with a Year 12 student and parent(s), it is decided that leaving the

school at the end of Year 12 is the best option for the student concerned in order to follow a full-time vocational course not available on our post-16 curriculum.

“But this is now a decision for the parents and not for the school.”

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