Councillors’ shock at St Olave’s investigation
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 October 2018
A council committee has found it “extraordinary” that the headteacher at the centre of the St Olave’s investigation was able to hold the post for seven years despite controversial policies being in place.
St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington apologised earlier this year for its illegal policy of excluding students who failed to make top grades from sixth form.
The school forced out pupils unlikely to achieve high grades in their A-levels but the headmaster who oversaw the policy, Aydin Önaç, said he did not know it was illegal.
Councillors sitting on an education committee said during a review of the investigation that it was “extraordinary” Mr Onac was able to hold the job for so long.
According to a new report, set to be heard next week, councillors noted that: “It is extraordinary that the former headteacher was able to remain in post for seven years whilst exhibiting the behaviours referenced in the report of the independent investigator. ”
An investigation found the head was as at the centre of allegations of bullying and unconstitutionally interfering with the management of the school’s governors and parents association.
Parents were also pressured to give the school cash on a regular basis, despite the school having “spendable reserves.”
According to council documents, Councillor Nicholas Bennett – who chaired the committee in July – said: “It was amazing that in March 2014, an Ofsted Inspection had confirmed St Olave’s to be ‘outstanding in every respect’, despite the controversial practices dating back to 2010.”
Out of more than 100 members of staff, only two came forward to express regret that the former headteacher had left.
The report explains: “The investigation found that since September 2011, the school had been acting illegally in preventing pupils progressing from Year 12 to 13 on the basis of their academic performance and that this had had serious implications for the well-being and higher education plans of affected pupils.
“It also found that the policy of not allowing pupils entry for individual subjects at A Level unless a B grade was obtained in the Year 13 mocks should stop, and any case where the school felt that it was in the best interests for a pupil to only sit two A Levels should be discussed with the parent and pupil.
” Concerns were also highlighted around the school’s ‘austerity’ programme which was identified as ‘a sensible initial strategy [that] went too far for too long’ and did not take account of a significant amount of spendable reserves available to the school, placing considerable pressure on parents and carers to make a regular financial contribution to the school.”
All recommendations made by the investigation have been accepted by the school, including the reversal of the transition policy for sixth formers.
Despite the damning findings of the investigation, members of the committee have been encouraged by a testimony by the chair of governors that improvements that have been made.
Councillors will be given a full report next week.