The former headteacher of St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington who unlawfully excluded unperforming students will not be banned from the profession, it has been decided. 

Aydin Önaç oversaw a policy which saw pupils unlikely to achieve high grades in their A-levels “forced out”. 

In 2017 the school made headlines as parents threatened legal action over the policy. 

Mr Önaç said he did not know it was unlawful to remove pupils between Year 12 and Year 13 because of their academic ability, and he resigned. 

In September 2023 a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel which met to discuss whether Mr Önaç had a future in the profession decided he should not be banned. 

The following details have been revealed in an outcome report of the meeting. 

Mr Önaç began his position as headteacher of the selective grammar school in 2010. 

At the time the school had a policy whereby A-Level pupils who wished to continue their studies in Year 13 were required to gain at least grade C at AS level in the three subjects that they wished to take at A2 level. 

In 2013 Mr Önaç successfully proposed an increase in the AS grades required to progress to A2 level from three at grade C to three at grade B. 

Following A level results day in the middle of August 2017, around 30 pupils failed to meet the progression criteria. 

The panel heard that a decision was made to allow roughly half of the pupils who had gained two B grades (rather than three) to continue into Year 13. 

Families of pupils at the school initiated a judicial review of the lawfulness of the existence of the progression criteria. 

Mr Önaç told the panel he had not known that the policy was unlawful and suggested that it was common practice at selective grammar schools. 

He also told the panel that around 16 pupils whose places had been withdrawn due to the progression criteria were invited to resume their studies at the school. 

One pupil who had been excluded describes the weeks that followed as “some of the worst in my life”. 

Another pupil who was invited back said they felt it was only to stop news articles being published about the school. 

Mr Önaç said: “The decision not to admit to Year 13 based on attainment was undertaken in good faith.” 

But he added: “Clearly some pupils were distressed by what happened to them and faced disappointment as their school sixth career did not progress as they had hoped.” 

He said he did not consider that offering the opportunity to resit Year 12 was in the best interests of the pupils as these pupils would be a year below their peers and it would not be helpful for their self-esteem. 

The panel decided that the policy had seriously affected the education and well-being of pupils. 

However, after hearing a number of extremely complimentary references about his work in education the panel concluded that he should face no further punishment. 

“The panel was of the view that, applying the standard of the ordinary intelligent citizen, the recommendation of no prohibition order would be both a proportionate and an appropriate response,” it said.