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School refuses reasonable adjustments to secure child’s safety

16 September 2020

A disabled child from Ramsgate whose brain is at physical risk of displacement has been refused reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act which would keep her safe at school drop off and pick up because of the school’s Coronavirus procedures.

A report in Isle of Thanet News states that Hannah Frost had asked St George’s secondary school to make provision for her thirteen year-old daughter Francesca to be allowed through the gates to the school car park at the start of classes to avoid being jostled by other pupils.

Francesca has cerebral palsy, a learning disability, has a clip on her heart and her brain is held up by a gauze. She had surgery when she was four to prevent her brain slipping down her spine.

Hannah said: “Fran has a lack of co-ordination. Her brain is held up by gauze and any accident with a bump could cause it to fall back down so I didn’t want her amongst hundreds of kids outside on the pavement.

“She has an educational health care plan (EHCP) so the school is aware of all this. She has a moderate learning disability which means she doesn’t know left from right and road safety is a no go.

“The Equality Act of 2010 is very clear regarding reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Francesca’s EHCP clearly states her needs and her vulnerability, but they wanted my incredibly vulnerable child to line up outside the school where she could be placed at risk of harm.”

The school has closed the car park as part of its Coronavirus measures. The school provided a staff member to go outside and watch Fran while she was waiting to be picked up.

Hannah said: “The staff member saw me and walked inside. Fran began to follow my car and a different member of staff shouted for her to move to the left and then had to grab her shoulders and quickly move her to safety from an elderly person going fast on a mobility scooter.”

Hannah says staff and pupils are allowed to drive in and park so she is bewildered about why Francesca could not be dropped off there.

She added: “I was told people coming in was by appointment only so said make her an appointment for every morning and we will be there on time.”

A (SEND) tribunal against St George’s School for disability discrimination has been lodged, and Francesca has been moved to another school by her mother.

She said: “My request for reasonable adjustment to drop Francesca into the school grounds and safely on site was not a huge ask and would have met the needs of her disability. I feel she has been discriminated against and am devastated and angry.”

St George’s Headmaster Adam Mirams said: “Our priority, as always, is the safety and well-being of all our pupils and staff and we have implemented a number of new measures, in line with government guidance, to ensure every member of our school community is safe and happy in school.

 “We will always try to work closely with families and the Local Authority to ensure that reasonable adjustments can be made in individual cases given the changing situation.”

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We would urge schools to do their utmost to put reasonable adjustments at the heart of their returning to school plans, and exercise creativity and flexibility. If returning to school is to be a reality for children with SEND, we need to see schools truly developing personalised solutions for SEND pupils.

“This is one story of many we have heard about children being failed by schools using Coronavirus as an excuse not to make reasonable adjustments to ensure the safety of SEND children.”