A damning report into discrimination against a disabled boy over a three-year period has been side-stepped by a Grantham school.
A judge found that the boy, who suffers from autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and double incontinence, was punished for failing to change his pad and refusing to wipe his bottom. He was “made to suffer embarrassment, poor hygiene, and discomfort. This must have felt both degrading and humiliating”. Staff were criticised for refusing to inspect his skin and bottom, leaving him in pain.
His parents have spoken out in the hope that lessons will be learned and other disabled children can avoid the same treatment. The boy’s mother said the school’s handling of his incontinence was a “continual battle”, with staff refusing to help or monitor him.
She said: “He would be handed over to me and I would have to take him back to the school and use the parent teacher toilet there before I could even get him to the car.
“By the summer of 2010 we were getting exasperated because he was coming home with clinical waste in his backpack.”
It was on taking their son out of the school and gaining access to his records and the harrowing information within that they decided to take legal action. However, because the school became an academy shortly after the complaint was lodged, a loophole rids its governing body of any wrongdoing and the courts have no powers to demand action be taken.
The school was invited to defend its actions but “refused to participate”. The tribunal documentation stated: “Despite a change of status, the new academy is the same school, and in refusing to play any part in the proceedings, other than to deny liability on the narrow legal point of its changed status, it has missed the opportunity to defend or explain the actions or omissions of the National Church of England School. In real, if not legal terms, the academy is the same school.”
Lincolnshire County Council is classed as the responsible body as the local authority, although the tribunal was sympathetic and found the council not responsible for any unlawful discrimination.
The boy is now doing well at a different school.
His mother said: “We are deeply upset at the difﬁculties our son endured. We are shocked that the school chose to walk away from any legal accountability using any loophole that could be found. We are even more concerned that several counts of unlawful discrimination, breaching several sections of the equality act with such gravity, are not lessons the school considers itself worthy of learning.”
In a joint statement issued by headteacher John Gibbs, chair of governors the Rev Eric McDonald and vice-chair of governors/SEND governor Darren Thorpe, they said:
“The Directors of the Academies Trust confirm notification that HM Courts & Tribunals Service have found in favour of a claim made against Lincolnshire County Council, as the Local Authority, of discrimination towards a former pupil of the National Church of England Junior School under section 85 of the 2010 Equality Act.
“No comment on this matter can be made by the School or the Directors of the Academies Trust on behalf of a now dissolved Board of Governors of the former Federation which no longer exists and has not been found responsible in this case.
“The Academy Directors would not normally comment on individual cases. However it is pertinent to point out that no order has been made against the Academy as the Local Authority was named as the Responsible Body in the submission to the Tribunal.
“The child named in this claim was fully supported throughout his time at both Harrowby Infant School and the National Junior School partaking in mainstream education with additional help and support.
“A clinical Psychiatrist recommended in 2011 that the pupil would be better suited by a placement at a Special Educational Needs School. This advice was declined by the parent.”
“However, an exceptionally high level of care and support was provided for the pupil within the mainstream school environment and extra resourcing was provided by the National School to meet his needs.
“The Tribunal Report made no reference to the fact that the parent was a governor of the school whilst her son attended. It should be noted that during her time as a governor, the parent did not take an active role in promoting provision for children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND).
“Academy Directors are pleased to note that the pupil is now continuing his education at a special school which more appropriately meets his needs. This transfer came about after full support and co-operation between the National School and the Local Authority.
“The Academy Directors continue to provide high standards of education for all pupils within the school family and are currently working towards a submission for the Autism Inclusion Mark, a regionally recognised award given to schools which demonstrate good practice in meeting the needs of children and young people on the autistic spectrum.
“It is the opinion of the Academy Directors that as the tribunal’s decision was made with submission from the parent only it is fundamentally flawed. The school did not make a submission after acting on legal advice.”