Year 12 Students Asked to Leave because of Exam Results

Portrait of Dan Rosenberg
Dan Rosenberg
Partner, Education & Public Law Solicitor

The reality of the end of Year 12 for all students normally includes a set of internal exams. This helps the school or college to have a better understand of how well pupils have coped with the transition from GCSE to A Level work, and helps inform the process of providing predicted grades to universities.

But, as Education Law Solicitors, we know from working with clients in the past that students are being asked to leave after their Year 12 internal exam results have come in because they are not performing at a level the school or college considers necessary.

Schools and colleges are often focussed on the results they achieve in league tables. This can lead to young people being asked to leave before Year 13.

Often schools set a criteria for ‘progression’ to year 13.   It varies from school to school. The ones we have seen range from 3 ‘Bs’ or 3 ‘Cs' to 3 ’Ds’.  These criteria are often not written down. 

Sometimes schools have subtler criteria, for example stopping children progressing in one subject if they have a low grade in that, which has the intended effect of forcing them out (as doing only 2 A levels does not assist with university entrance).

Others tell them they have to drop one (or more) of the subjects they have chosen and do another subject instead.  There are many variations on the practice.  Schools and colleges are inventive. Some schools and colleges cull 5-10% of their pupils this way.

To be treated like this is often a shock to the young person and their family. They will have often been at the school since year 7.

Is This Exclusion?

In sixth form (Years 12 and 13) a student can, as in other years, be excluded for bad behaviour. They cannot be asked to leave because of poor exam results or for academic reasons (or poor attendance).   

To decide if a student can move onto A Levels, schools and colleges often put in place minimum grades for GCSEs. This reduces access to those who achieved better grades in Year 11.  This is lawful. 

For those who are accepted to do A levels, there is then no lawful way to force them out half way through or indeed once they have started.

We suspect that in September and October there may be attempts to remove current year 12s from courses on the basis of internal tests, particularly in subjects such as maths. 

We have seen that in the past, but the chances of that happening this year are higher, due to the fact that schools do not have actual performance in GCSEs to go on – only teacher assessed grades.

Options for Year 12s Asked to Leave

The options given by schools to Year 12s who have been asked to leave are straightforward.

They either don’t sit their A Levels, change subjects, repeat a year, or they find another school or college who will take them on for Year 13 at very short notice, with some being pushed into the private sector. Indeed, some private colleges are running a profitable business educating year 13s in this position.

None of the options are likely to be attractive.

These discussions often take place late on in the summer, leaving little time for students and their families to make arrangements to find somewhere else to continue their studies.

Has Coronavirus Affected this Situation?

It’s hard to tell at the moment. In some schools internal exams will have been completed by the Year 12s already, and these conversations may have taken place at the end of term. 

The concern is that in schools where internal exams have not been done that there may be tests in September. Those who don’t perform well could be asked to retake the year, or go elsewhere.   

What Can I Do if My Child is unable to progress at the end of year 12?

We’re really keen to hear from anyone in this situation, as we may be able to make a legal challenge against the decision.  We have run numerous successful cases in the past.

Our expert team of Education Law Solicitors can help you to understand what action you can take and what your next steps should be.

For legal advice call our Education Solicitors

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