School discriminated against disabled pupil, tribunal rules

Acland Burghley changed supervision plan before boy was assaulted

Thursday, 7th October 2021 — By Harry Taylor

AclandBurghley School Julian Osley

Acland Burghley Secondary School

A SECONDARY school has been found to have discriminated against a disabled pupil, after he was bullied and assaulted in the playground when his supervisory support was withdrawn.

Acland Burghley and its governing body was found at a Health, Education and Social Care tribunal to have let down a 13-year-old boy, by not giving him supervision at break time, as stipulated by his legal care plan.

The school’s senior leadership team and governors have been ordered to formally apologise to Kimberley Turner, his mother, and her son – and urgently undergo specialist SEND (special educational needs and disability) training and discrimination law.

The boy, who has ADHD and autistic traits, was pushed over and punched repeatedly last October after a lack of supervision had left him prone to taunts as part of an ongoing pattern of bullying.

He has been out of the school in Tufnell Park since he began refusing to attend in March. His mother said his mental health collapsed after the incident and he is now stuck at home without any education being provided by the council.

“He stopped going to school because he didn’t feel safe,” she added. “He’s missing his friends, missing his lessons, missing his peer group.”

Acland Burghley has specialist facilities for SEND children, including a centre for autistic children, The Base.

Ms Turner said: “My son, in theory, should be able to go to Acland Burghley, be safe there and get on – but it’s obviously not possible and this ruling shows that.”

The tribunal heard that Ms Turner’s son was supposed to receive one-on-one supervision and support for 32.5 hours per week from a learning support assistant, as part of his education, health and care (EHC) plan, a legal document which des­cribes a child or young person’s needs.

This was then with­drawn without any discussion with Ms Turner, after the school “reassessed his needs and decided he did not need support”.

Tribunal judge Hugh Brayne said the boy was disadvantaged by not having one-on-one support provided and the school discriminated against him.

He also ticked off headteacher Nicholas John for saying he would not have been as honest with Ms Turner, if he had known the case would have gone to tribunal.

“The implication that fear of a tribunal would have led to reduced honesty is regrettable,” he said.

Ms Turner said other parents had got in touch with similar experiences in Camden. After teaching herself discrimination law, she is now acting as an advocate for them.

A spokesperson for Acland Burghley’s governing body said: “Two claims were made under the Equality Act against the governing body, one of which was dismissed by the tribunal.

“In respect of the other claim, the governing body accepts the findings, which related to an incident which occurred in October 2020.

“The governing body recognises that errors were made in the handling of this student’s provision, which have been found by the tribunal to have been discriminatory.

“As an inclusive school this was not the intention of our staff. The govern­ing body will be apolo­gising to the student and his family. The governing body intends to review its practices and procedures as a result of the decision.”

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