Grammar school 'was wrong to refuse to make special exam provisions for autistic pupil'|
GRANTHAM, Lincolnshire, UK: A ruling that a grammar school had been wrong to refuse to make special provisions for an autistic pupil sitting its entrance examination was welcomed by the boy's mother on August 4.
The boy broke down and wept in the middle of the 11-plus exam after becoming disorientated by the unfamiliar surroundings.
His mother said that, when she appealed against her son being refused a place at the school, one member of the panel had read out a statement saying that autistic people became violent when unable to express themselves.
The boy is described as being very bright, but suffers problems with social communication and struggles to cope with changes in routine.
His mother approached King's Grammar School in Grantham, Lincolnshire, before the exam to ask if her son's disability could be taken into account. But the school refused because he did not have a statement of special educational needs.
The boy became so distraught during the exam that he could not see the paper, and had a screaming fit afterwards. As well as autism, he also suffers from dyspraxia (which affects balance, perception and language) and attention deficit disorder, but the school incorrectly recorded that he had only dyslexia and made no note of his other conditions.
His mother unsuccessfully appealed against the school's refusal to offer him a place.
However, Anne Seex, the Local Government Ombudsman, has now ruled that King's Grammar School broke disability discrimination laws in its treatment of the child.
His mother, described in the ombudsman's report as Mrs P., said: “We knew he would struggle with the change in surroundings. Our primary school head teacher suggested we ask if he could sit the test there, or at least in a room on his own. But when I went to the school I was told, ‘No, we don't make any allowances.'
“We knew from SATs results and practice papers that he should have passed with flying colours.
“He got more and more upset throughout the exam. He held it all in for a while, then was crying but didn't want to wipe the tears away because he didn't want the other children to see him crying. When he came out he ended up screaming. The deputy head looked at me and said, 'Oh dear'.”
Now aged 12, her son is flourishing at another grammar school, where he was accepted on the basis of his national curriculum test results and a report from his primary school.
In the appeal, Mrs P. said that the issue of whether her son should have been given special treatment was dismissed, as the panel chairman said it had already been addressed. Another member of the panel allegedly read out information that said autistic people were prone to violence.
The ombudsman told the school to apologise to the child and his mother and to give a £50 gift token as compensation, which Mrs P. feels is inadequate.
The report said: “The school and the appeal panel failed to consider their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and the code of practice for school admissions.
“[They] failed to consider whether the complainant's son was disabled and whether reasonable adjustments should have been made for him.”
The report said that the boy's conditions fitted the definition of a disability. Because of his academic ability he was not deemed to need a statement of special needs.
The school had been misinformed by a local grammar schools' consortium, which said that it did not need to make allowances for the boy's condition as he did not have a statement.
However, the ombudsman said that the school had quickly accepted fault and co-operated with the investigation.
There was no one at the school on August 4. The local authority said that it would be inappropriate to comment, as the school controlled its own admissions.
(Source: The Times, August 5, 2008)