St Olave's report following illegal exclusions
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 October 2018
Parents and former governors at a grammar that illegally excluded students have spoken out after the council drew a line on what was a “very dark period” for the school.
A damning independent report commissioned by Bromley Council found academic success came at the cost of student welfare at St Olave’s School in Orpington, with pupils excluded during A-level studies if there were concerns they would under-achieve in their exams.
The report, published earlier this year, found St Olave’s practice was illegal, stating students were being treated as “collateral damage”.
The former headteacher who oversaw the policy, Aydin Önaç, said he did not know it was illegal and both the school and the council fully accepted the independent recommendations.
At a council meeting on Monday councillors were urged to look to the future of what has been considered the “jewel in Bromley’s crown”.
Councillor Nicholas Bennett, who chaired a special committee on the report earlier this year, said: “It is very important to look forward rather than backwards. In my 44 years’ experience in education I have had never read a report like this.
“I can’t see how such an outstanding school could have been run in such a peculiar way by a headteacher who was clearly out of control.
“It is right to pay tribute to those who did blow the whistle and were unfortunately ignored.”
However, families claim the report doesn’t go far enough to include the council’s role in what happened.
Debbie Hills, former chairwoman of the parents association, and whose son did not progress to Year 13, said the council took too long to listen to their concerns.
Mrs Hills said: “My son suffered because of his being told he wasn’t good enough for years and years. All those professionals are put in place and they let them down.
“Until this all came together last September, nobody was prepared to do anything about it. It was infuriating.
“For me and for everybody else, everybody who let those kids down needs to be held account.”
Tony Wright-Jones, a former governor at St Olave’s, added: “This is not finished in my opinion. There are still children and families that are paying for the price.
“Where is the accountability here? I’m still shocked that with everything that has gone on there we have had no apology from the council.”
Opposition councillor Kathy Bance echoed the parents’ feelings, criticising the report for not going far enough to include the council.
She said: “Drawing back to Cllr Nicholas Bennett’s comments at an earlier committee, he said Bromley Council was at fault from the top downwards.
“It doesn’t say in the report. For parents to gain confidence in us, we should have taken ownership.
“We have said it all verbally many times, but it should have been in the report.”
Cllr Peter Fortune, cabinet member for education, said the report was the end of the process of reviewing what went wrong, and not the end for what happened to the children affected.
Cllr Fortune said: “The report spells out a history of awful service for young people and I would like to thank the people in the report for bringing it to the attention of the local authority.
“The behaviour at this school went on for too long and should have been captured and dealt with previously.
“We stated when the report was published we as an authority gave our assertion we would act upon the recommendations in the report. I speak again and say we will adhere to them, many of them we already have.
“Perhaps we can look to the light rather than the very dark period.”