Government inspectors found a “massive cultural shift” as they checked up on an Orpington grammar school that was found to be carrying out illegal and damaging exclusions of underachieving students.

Ofsted visited St Olave’s in February six months after a shocking report found the highly-rated school was unlawfully forcing out pupils unlikely to achieve high grades in their A-Levels.

An independent report published in July found the policy treated pupils as “collateral damage”, adding the exclusions “based on academic ability” breached the Education Act.

The headteacher who oversaw the policy said he did not know it was illegal. The school fully accepted the findings.

The report also found governors “prepared to challenge” the headteacher and his policies “were removed” in a reconstitution of the governing body, and that only two out of 100 staff members supported the head.

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In an unannounced re-inspection by the education watchdog last month, major improvements were found.

According to the inspectors there has been a cultural shift in governance, with governors willing to check up on the school’s leadership.

According to a recently published Ofsted letter, which is set to be discussed by councillors at a six-month review meeting on the school’s progress, inspectors said: “Safeguarding is effective and the current overall effectiveness of the school remains outstanding.

“Leaders’ previous policies up to the 2017 summer GCSE, AS and A-level examinations are now no longer in place.

“Inspectors looked in detail at how successful leaders are in proactively establishing an environment that supports pupils’ emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.

“The school’s work in this area has been transformed. It is best summed up by pupils and students: without fail, they feel very well supported and listened to.”

Students told Ofsted there has been a “shift in focus” and their wellbeing is now prioritised over academic success.

Inspectors added: “There has been a huge cultural shift in governance.

“The local authority has also carefully checked that previous practices have ceased.”

Dozens of improvement measures have been adopted by the school and the council, which also accepted the findings of last year’s report.