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UCL Academy’s withdrawal of A-Level students is ‘disturbing’

Council seeks reasons as to why pupils were blocked from exams just weeks before tests

26 May, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

A MOVE to stop a group of students from taking their A-levels weeks before the exams was described as “disturbing” this week, as the council sought reassurances that pupils have not been treated unfairly.

The New Journal reported last week how teenagers at the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage felt they had been let down after being told they had been withdrawn from the tests amid doubts over how they would perform. Some said their conditional offers from universities were now at risk.

The school – Camden’s only academy school at secondary level, operating beyond council control – has insisted it has always acted “based on the individual needs of students”.

Gerald Clark, from the Camden National Education Union, said: “Our local authority schools are accountable to the community and Camden Council. I don’t think most of them behave that way but I believe some schools do.”

He added: “Students don’t have to get A or A* and it is often the case where a C or a D is sufficient to get into university. I believe schools should be student-centred and allow every student to achieve the best they can.”

Labour education chief Councillor Angela Mason said the council are “in discussion” with the academy since our story was published last week.

It was also picked up by national media with some of the students talking to the BBC show, Victoria Derbyshire.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the programme that the withdrawals seemed “pretty disturbing and pretty unethical”, adding: “It seems discourteous being done through email.”

He said: “All that preparation has suddenly come to nothing. Schools will always have entry requirements to attend to, and they will have continuation grades at the end of Year 12 to proceed to 13, but here they have got to the 11th hour and been told this. This seems totally unacceptable.”

About 10 pupils are said to have been informed during the Easter break they could not sit their exams based on their February mock grades.

Other students were informed after sitting their November mock exams. The withdrawals led the students to complain that the UCL Academy was looking to protect its league table place when the results come out this summer.

The UCL Academy said in a statement: “Separately any decision to withdraw a student from an exam is a difficult one for us to take and is one we make working with a student and their family. “Only in individual circumstances would a decision be taken to withdraw a student from an examination, or recommend a switch to an AS exam. We make decisions based on the individual needs of students.”

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