I think this is highly unreasonable re disabled pupils

(112 Posts)
loopyluna Sun 16-Jun-13 11:51:54

I'm posting on here as, where I live, noone seems to find this as anything to get worked up about and I wanted to know if UK mummies felt the same...

My two eldest DC go to a private senior school. (Private schools here are much more affordable than the UK and are a lifestyle choice accessible to most.) I am very happy with the school, the teachers, pastoral care etc. It's got a good reputation and long waiting lists.

My niggle is that the school is comprised of several old buildings on a hill. The amount of stairs, inside and out, is phenomenal. All the classrooms, labs, music rooms and chapel can only be accessed by stairs. Only the dining room, library and offices are on the ground floor. I asked, when we first visited the school, what would a pupil do if they had an accident and needed crutches, and was told that, they would be allowed to leave to class 5 minutes early to avoid being jostled!

However, whenever I've mentioned to DH or other parents, that I am concerned that there is no accessibility for disabled pupils, I receive shrugs and "well they just have to go elsewhere!" The nearest comp has a v v bad reputation and I am actually upset that a physically disabled child would not have the choice of a better school, more caring enviroment etc.

AIBU or am I right to think that this would not be allowed in the UK?

IAgreeCompletely Sun 16-Jun-13 11:56:12

That will be one of the reasons the school is affordable sad

EndoplasmicReticulum Sun 16-Jun-13 11:57:34

Do you know that any children have applied to the school and been turned down on the basis that they won't be able to manage the stairs?

Have you actually asked the school, rather than other parents?

If you are just worrying about hypothetical children then perhaps you don't need to get worked up.

squeakytoy Sun 16-Jun-13 11:57:38

What do YOU think they should/can do about it? bulldoze the building and rebuild?

I think over here that all new buildings have to be built wheelchair accessible and have disabled facilities. But older buildings are exempt if they were built before it became regulation. Also if its a listed building then they most likely can't alter the outside if it.

It's very sad though.

WorraLiberty Sun 16-Jun-13 12:00:36

Perhaps the school should start charging more so they can spend the extra money on the building?

shushpenfold Sun 16-Jun-13 12:02:06

I'm interested to see what you think they can do about it too. Reasonable adjustments - yes, build another school - no.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:03:40

I don't think that private education in this country is restricted by much in the way of legal responsibilities to the general public.
They can select their cohort according to the criteria they set down, and if someone doesn't fit, they can find subtle and unspoken ways of refusing them admittance.

WorraLiberty Sun 16-Jun-13 12:04:09

And what can they do about it being on a hill? confused

Startail Sun 16-Jun-13 12:05:06

UK schools certainly aren't accessible.

You can't get to several bits of the secondary school, DCs with injuries have lessons in a downstairs room.

You could get to all the primary, but only by going out in the rain. Path outside slopes, but inside has steps.

MrsHoarder Sun 16-Jun-13 12:05:22

Older buildings are exempt. The school would be expected to make reasonable adjustment, which I would expect to be try to get a timetable which didn't use stairs if possible.

My 1950s build secondary school didn't have lifts in 2005 (when DB left) and probably still doesn't.

AntlersInAllOfMyDecorating Sun 16-Jun-13 12:05:26

I teach in a private school in the UK in a listed building. Every trip between lessons is steps and ramps, the school is on a hill. What would a disabled child do here? No idea.

Can't make alterations to the building. Can't make the
school smaller or level it. Similar restrictions in state school I was in before. So still a reality in many schools

Interesting questions, raises uncomfortable points. .

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:05:28

Why would they bother?
Unless said pupil is from a mega-wealthy family and the parents would pay for any and all adaptations.

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 12:05:29

A lot of private schools can't be altered for disabled access. Mine was one of them. All the new buildings (from like, 1995 onwards) had disabled access - ramps and elevators and wide doorways for wheelchairs, but the main school building is from the 1800's.

It can't be demolished or altered because it's a listed building. The school just have to do their best to timetable lessons so that children with mobility issues don't have lessons there. When I was there, we had classes up four flights of stairs - there was no way you could get up there on crutches or in a wheelchair.

What do you propose they do? Bulldoze the entire school?

The other local school, is it disabled friendly? If its not then over here the locally authority would most likely allocate a school that they are able to attend and possibly even pay for transport. Do you know where these kids go?

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:07:35

In state primary, we've done it by shuffling around room allocations and resources so that a child with a disability would have tailored access to what they needed. Done it at least three times IME.
That's with a school that also has a wheelchair lift already in place.

xylem8 Sun 16-Jun-13 12:10:00

'I am actually upset that a physically disabled child would not have the choice of a better school, more caring enviroment etc.'

YABU. what about all the children who can't afford to go there.Are you upset for them too?

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 12:10:22

I asked, when we first visited the school, what would a pupil do if they had an accident and needed crutches, and was told that, they would be allowed to leave to class 5 minutes early to avoid being jostled!

That happens in state schools here. When DS was on crutches after an accident on the school playing field that was what was put in place for him so he could move about school. I didn't find it shocking to be honest, I thought it was quite a reasonable plan of action. His school was an old building and had very few adaptations for children with disabilities because the building didn't allow for it.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:11:38

Exactly. I've never understood their right to charitable status either.

loopyluna Sun 16-Jun-13 12:15:41

I don't expect them to bulldoze the hill! I was just giving background.
All private schools in this country cost, more or less, the same. That's not why this school is affordable.
And yes, I'm only worrying about hypothetical pupils, so probably shouldn't get worked up about it, but it just strikes me as unfair.

Practically, they could, without too much difficulty, make a couple of classrooms on the ground floor. Each class has its own classroom, the pupils only move for science, art and music, so it would be possible.

Maybe they would consider doing this if someone kicked up a fuss. I have a slight disability which is only going to get worse in time, so I think I'll contact them about future parent-teacher meetings and ask for an appointment downstairs. I could use that as a pretext to bring up the subject.

littlewhitebag Sun 16-Jun-13 12:16:07

My DD is at a private school in UK. Part of the school is very old and would not be accessible for those with physical disabilities. They cannot change this as it is a listed building. Unfortunately a physical disabled child would need to go elsewhere.
I know of a child who had to attend a state school outwith her catchment area as she was in a wheelchair. It really is not possible for all schools, especially older ones, to be adapted. All new builds however, are accessible.
This may make you sad but sometimes nothing can be done.

AmberLeaf Sun 16-Jun-13 12:17:01


Am I shocked at the 'tough shit' attitude some replies seem to have? No.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:19:00

I like the fact that you are thinking about theoretical children rather than your own interests OP, it's one of the things that makes change so difficult to effect. People usually only care if it directly affects them, so well done for being the exception.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:19:37

<waves to Amber from under my namechange> grin

loopyluna Sun 16-Jun-13 12:19:42

Ixylem: if the parents of a disabled child wanted their child to go to a private school here, they could afford it. For families on benefits, we're talking £50 a month.
The education system is very different to the UK's.

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 12:20:16

Amber how is it a tough shit attitude? What do you propose the schools do if they're built on hills and in old listed buildings that can't be altered?

littlewhitebag Sun 16-Jun-13 12:21:34

They are not 'tough shit' attitudes, merely reality. Of course it would be best if all schools had disabled access throughout but it is just not possible. Most schools are strapped for cash for the very basics as it is.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:23:15


Excellent name BTW, first time I've thought of Coke or H today.

Blu Sun 16-Jun-13 12:25:22

I think the OP's awareness of the limitations of the school is admirable, actually, and would that more people would consider this sort of thing on behalf of a community as a ehole rather than 'if it doesn't affect you personally YABU'.

Loopy, it took years and years of fierce lobbying for the DDA to be passed in this country, and even then it has wide open loopholes. My guess is there will be no mileage in talking to other parents or even the school, but have a look and see whether any disabled lobby groups are campainging the government for equity of access, and throw your weigt behind them.

If your local council, or the equivalent, has any sort of Equal opps monitoring group, you could write to them and ask how they ensure equal opportunity for disabled children in the school provision.

Actually, with good will, a flexible attitude, imagination and an experienced architect or other professional, 'reasonable adjustment' can often be made with very little expense.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 12:25:42

Your question to the school only asked about a temporary situation though and I think that response was a reasonable one in the short term. Do you know how they would react if a wheelchair user wanted to join the school or if a current pupil needed longer term adjustments?

Floggingmolly Sun 16-Jun-13 12:28:27

My dd's high school is a listed building, built in 1869. It's got lots of stairs, unsurprisingly. I doubt they could be forced to rebuild to accommodate some hypothetical disabled students. And yours is built on a hill!
What do you suggest they actually do?

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 12:28:44

Ds went to an independent school in the uk. Beautiful buildings, grade II listed, along with the gardens. Two pupils, one in his year and one in another year were wheelchair users. The school adapted the timetable to ensure all their lessons were on the ground floor. Peasy!

redexpat Sun 16-Jun-13 12:29:39

Depends if that country has ratified the UNs disability rights charter.

BridgetBidet Sun 16-Jun-13 12:30:41


It can all be solved by timetabling. This was done at my private secondary school. Parts of the school might be inaccessible but if the lschool knows that a disabled child will be in particular lessons they can schedule them in accessible places.

If you're not actually certain that this is even a problem for the school I really can't see what you're worrying for. You've created a hypothetical problem which may or may not exist, why are you giving this headspace?

And yes YABU for not caring about kids who can't go there.

moisturiser Sun 16-Jun-13 12:32:12

I'm afraid pretty much the entire world is undisabled friendly (or so it often feels!) Most buildings, most roads, lots of pavements are completely unsuitable for wheelchairs.

It would be noble to get the school to think about becoming more disabled friendly if they get a disbled student enquire about the school or if they are going to do any more building work. But I'm not sure they'll do anything otherwise. But it's lovely of you to care, and of course more people should.

ChippingInWiredOnCoffee Sun 16-Jun-13 12:32:59

I have a slight disability which is only going to get worse in time, so I think I'll contact them about future parent-teacher meetings and ask for an appointment downstairs. I could use that as a pretext to bring up the subject


You don't actually know any children that this has affected, but you want to make an issue of the fact that it is an old school that is built on a hill???

You also want your meetings downstairs 'to make a point'.


Do you not think the school has other more pressing things to deal with. IF a child has an accident or wants to enrol in the school - then it can be sorted out surely?

AmberLeaf Sun 16-Jun-13 12:34:32

Eyesunderarock Waves back...cluelessly! grin

What Eyesunderarock said is very true OP. A lot of the time people only care when it affects them directly.

Those that asked, yes tough shit attitudes, several posts have that ring to them.

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 12:35:07

If I, and many, many others hadn't challenged people regarding hypothetical situations, there would not be a disability discrimination act, today.

Jan49 Sun 16-Jun-13 12:35:39

I suppose it's because when the buildings were built, architects didn't allow for people in wheelchairs. Having lots of stairs in a busy school is probably quite dangerous actually, because of the risk of falling when there's a crowd of children and some pushing.

I think saying "it's a listed building, so what can we do?" is sometimes a convenient excuse for not making alterations which would be expensive but make the building wheelchair accessible. I've sometimes heard that excuse used in cafes for not having accessible toilets or even for not having toilets at all. I thought it was illegal for cafes not to have toilets (of any kind) but I've come across several where they used the listed buildings excuse. I bet if it was financially worth it they'd managed to do it.

I think you're right to be concerned and I suspect the parents you've spoken to don't have physically disabled children. The building you've described could surely have a lift added. But IMO in the UK many private schools don't want children with any disability of any kind so they're unlikely to want to make alterations which make it posslble for such children to attend.

JuliaScurr Sun 16-Jun-13 12:37:04

YY amberleaf

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:38:50

'But IMO in the UK many private schools don't want children with any disability of any kind so they're unlikely to want to make alterations which make it posslble for such children to attend.'

^ ^

I get riled about the lack of provision for women fleeing DV with children too, despite it having nothing to do with me or mine. I should stop bothering really. hmm

JuliaScurr Sun 16-Jun-13 12:40:08

I hope a lot of posters on here are trolls...

WestieMamma Sun 16-Jun-13 12:40:13

YABU and wrong to think this wouldn't be allowed in the UK.

The law requires 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people. Retrospectively fitting extensive disabled access to an old building such as you describe on the off chance that someone with a disability may one day want to go there, would not be considered reasonable.

AmberLeaf Sun 16-Jun-13 12:42:08

I also don't understand why people keep talking about hypothetical children with disabilities?

There are such children in existence you know!

If schools, even those with listed status, make a point in their prospectus and on their website that children with disabilities can and will be catered for, then parents when looking would see that that school could cater for their childs needs.

If a school didn't do that, I would assume that they didn't want the bother and would cross them off my list. IME schools that do cater for children with disabilites make a point of publicising that fact.

So, I don't get the attitude of 'deal with it if it arises'

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 12:42:45

Trust me Julia, they're not.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:44:35

Especially if you could turn hem down at interview. Private educational establishments do not have to accept anyone they don't want to, on whatever grounds. As I said, if they don't want a particular disabllity, ethnicity or sexuality present in their school, they can finesse a response that is acceptable in the eyes of their members and remain unchallenged in law.

Eyesunderarock Sun 16-Jun-13 12:45:47

Trolls? confused

I recognise most of the names here.

Sirzy Sun 16-Jun-13 12:45:47

My secondary school was on a hill, it was on 3 floors and the school could not be adapted to include a lift because of the layout. When I was on crutches for 12 weeks then I either had to go outside and round (you could get to each floor from outside because of the hill) or leave early to avoid the rush.

Not ideal but sometimes there is no alternative.

Being accessableis more than lifts, although that is obviously a start.

There needs to be space for mobility, including in bathrooms and work area's, colleges all now have a few computers, eating/working tables that can be used by a wheelchair user etc .

"AIBU or am I right to think that this would not be allowed in the UK?"

As you have found out, it is allowed, within reason, such as listed buildings. The right to an education, still stands and if the child becomes immobile, they transfer, even if it is temporary.

What annoys me is when new stuff is built and no one had considered those with disabilities.

My area had to have a whole sequence of traffic crossings changed, because someone had forgot to put "bleeps" in. I do wonder how much that cost the LA.

It is difficult to realistically discuss whatshould happen in another country, tbh.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 12:46:48

Amberleaf I hear your argument and agree with you but where does the funding come from? Most schools are reluctant to spend money on adaptations that may not be needed in the near future and by the time they are needed will be out dated. In the case of my children's old school a stair lift was put in as soon as it was needed but not before.

OwlinaTree Sun 16-Jun-13 12:47:15

I wrote my workplace accessibility plan when the DDA started. We have since then added a accessible toilet and ramps, special doors etc as they were needed, and new work done has always been planned to consider wheelchair users and visual impairments etc.

It is the willingness to change, adapt and consider accessibility in planning that is the legal requirement, not ripping up everything and starting again.

There could be several things at work.

The school may well have applied fir planning permission and funding in order to make alterations and been turned down.

There may well be transport provided to a good school that's disabled friendly , the op has no idea of any provisions in place for these pupils. She's assuming they go to the crappy local school but has presented no evidence that this is the case or that no effort has been made to her what pupils they can into the private school.

NatashaBee Sun 16-Jun-13 12:48:08

I actually can't think of a single school I've ever attended/ visited where a large part of the building wasnt upstairs (with no lift) or otherwise inaccessible to wheelchairs or someone with mobility difficulties. It must severely restrict school selection choices.

squeakytoy Sun 16-Jun-13 12:49:50

It it was the ONLY school in the area, and no facilities meant that a disabled child (or even a disabled teacher/staff member) could not attend school, then it is fair enough to demand that adjustments be made, but if there is a nearby alternative to that school, then disabled pupils are not being denied an education.

To get- not her

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 12:56:30


It can all be solved by timetabling.*

Wrong. My school was built on a huge hill. The only way to get between buildings was to walk up or down steep hills. We had dedicated science buildings etc. so it's not as though you could just move science to say, the geography building because there was no equipment for science there.

The lunch hall was up a steep hill from the classrooms, the sports centre down the other side of the hill. The main building was listed and couldn't be altered. If you were a wheelchair user, sadly, there was no way you could attend that school.

"but where does the funding come from"

From a variety of sources, including the EU.

It can work out cheaper tomake adaptations,instead of having tofund private tutoring, or smaller units, as happens for temporary injuries, which cause wheelchair use etc.

The Equality Act, closed the loop holes for in direct discrimination, which is what not having accessabilty comes under.

A complaint doesn't have to come directly from a parent, it is a legal duty to not discriminate unreasonably, this check is done alongside other checks, in the same way that a fire/health safety check is done.

Ofstead also looks into these issues.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 13:01:09

livinginwonderland Electric wheelchair and a bit of timetable/classroom use reshuffling? Lessons can come to the pupil in some situations rather than the pupil going to the lesson (for example; I worked with a child on 02 who wasn't allow in the cooking suite at school because of a risk assessment so the lesson came to that child)

AmberLeaf Sun 16-Jun-13 13:02:06

Hellhas... well where does the funding for anything come from? You're not talking about a small business here. So funding or lack of isn't an excuse.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 13:02:33

The funding is there, in my experience, once the school know of a student who would like to use the school but until that time is is difficult to secure funding.

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 13:02:56

FFS. Many wheelchair users are quite capable of managing a steep hill.

Agree with Living, you cannot move a room full of computers, or craft/cooking equipment.

There isn't the room for adaptations, in every case, selling off all of the spare land around the schools, didn't help.

That is why many cities have had to move and link their Museums, for example, or have them across different sites.

Blu Sun 16-Jun-13 13:05:53

Westiemamma - yes it would! Many businesses and public buildings have done jut that - and with good will - in order to achieve accessibility.

Sirzy Sun 16-Jun-13 13:06:18

Can can move a laptop, or a lot of equipment for one lesson. It's not ideal but sometimes it's the only/easiest option.

Blu Sun 16-Jun-13 13:09:51

SqueakyToy - do you think disabled people should have all their choices defined by disability, then?

While parents of able-bodied children here win appeals galore based on the right individual school for their child, spend endless MN threads poring over this school or that school? Of course disabled children are subject to many of the other parameters of 'choice' that able bodied children are, such as the affordability o fprivate, selection for grammar, over-subscribed schools - but in your version as long as they can physically get in they need no other basis for choice.

Actually, of course, the criteria for admissions in the UK usually give priority to children with SEN, so there is real choice - which is a good thing in my opinion.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 13:14:30

Budgets are tight, more and more schools are struggling to afford the levels of staffing that they need so they make adjustments where they see fit. The schools I've worked in have had to fight hard to get funding to make adaptations for a known pupil, so I can only imagine what it would be like applying for funding for a hypothetical case. We need to be tackling the aspect of listed buildings protection, I see no reasons why listed buildings cannot reflect the times they live in as well as protecting the in inherent structure and integrity of the building.

We don't know how the school in the OP would react if a child who was a chair user wanted to join the roll because as far as I could see the OP only asked about a short term disability. I would be interested to see if they change their tune if she follows this up as she intends to (I suspect they won't mind you).

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Sun 16-Jun-13 13:16:35

You can move a room full of equipment if you choose to. The new room becomes the new IT suite/cookery class/science lab and the old room takes on a new purpose. It maybe costly in the beginning but there is nearly always an alternative with a bit of clever thinking.

Jan49 Sun 16-Jun-13 13:18:41

I'm baffled by the references to hills. Do people think wheelchairs users can only use them on flat surfaces?hmm Surely it's steps that are a problem, not hills?

exexpat Sun 16-Jun-13 13:21:41

New schools in the UK have to built with accessible designs, but with a lot of older ones (including many private schools) it is just not possible to adapt them.

DS goes to a private school which is in a listed building on a steep hill, and is a positive warren of corridors and steep staircases. There is one lift between the two main floors, so for example when one of the teachers had a broken leg recently, they reshuffled his classes so that he only had to use rooms accessible by that lift, but I'm not sure if they could do that long-term for a pupil (eg I don't think any of the science labs are accessible).

DD's school is also private, similar age, but more level site. There is one boy I know in the secondary section who has severe disabilities (can talk, but has no independent movement, needs a Steven Hawking-style wheelchair, and a full-time adult helper) and the school has managed to arrange timetables/classrooms so that he can do everything. However, a friend whose daughter uses a wheelchair has just decided against sending her to the same school (even though her brother will be there) because although she uses a wheelchair, she has full use of her arms, can propel herself etc but would struggle with some of the transfers between classrooms (involving crossing roads etc) by herself, and she is not otherwise disabled enough to need extra help in the classroom. Instead they are sending her to a recently refurbished state school which is fully accessible.

It would be great if all schools were fully accessible, but in many cases that would involve knocking them down and starting from scratch. Same goes for private homes - my father has only been to my house once or twice since I moved here because it is old with lots of odd changes in level and stairs, which he cannot cope with (part-time wheelchair user).

exexpat Sun 16-Jun-13 13:24:51

Just to clarify about friend's daughter - the school would have ensured that she got help with transfers and so on, but her parents thought it was on balance better for her to go somewhere where she could move around independently as much as possible.

In the UK and a friend of mine is looking ahead at a school for her wheelchair-using DS2. There is one state state primary school in our borough that "might" be able to take him, one school in the next borough that could (but would depend on whether they have a wheelchair-using child from that borough) and one private school that has apparently had children who use wheelchairs before (I know it also currently has at least one profoundly deaf pupil as I was chatting to his mother at tge Hearing Impaired centre recently) but they wouldn't decide whether his needs would be "too disruptive" until shortly before he started (and apparently wouldn't refund the deposit even if they decided not to take him; also he lives just outside its catchment area so might not qualify for a place anyway).

If more people gave thought to "hypothetical" children with disabilities then the actual children with disabilities might not be in this position.

gimmeanaxe Sun 16-Jun-13 13:33:14

Is Eton accessible out of interest?
My dd faces a 90 mile a day round trip as there's not one school suitable in the entire city for her. This is fucking ridiculous. What other parent or child would have to put up with this shit?

Tanith Sun 16-Jun-13 13:33:52

Steps aren't always a problem to a wheelchair user and hills certainly aren't.
Many wheelchair users will get out of their chairs and drag themselves upstairs if necessary. They've had to: they can't guarantee lifts or slopes being available and they're not prepared to sit waiting around for someone to do something about it.

A bit confused about the "private schools don't accept disabled children" presumption from some posters as well. They most certainly do.

"I'm baffled by the references to hills."

The point was that the school was old and built on a hill, in a time that anyone who was disabled in any way, would be in an institution, or behind closed doors at home.

If it natural landscape, it makes it more difficult to adapt. I have known that to apply to private houses, in Wales. If they hadn't of moved, they would of been housebound.

Some lung conditions, as well as lots of others means that hills make a place inaccessable.

exexpat Sun 16-Jun-13 13:37:42

From my experience of pushing my father in a wheelchair, the steep gradients at DS's school would make life extremely difficult if not impossible for anyone in a manual wheelchair, quite apart from the stairs. Obviously an electric wheelchair would make it more do-able.

gimmeanaxe Sun 16-Jun-13 13:42:22

I dont know why private schools dont move out of their ancient buildings into modern accomodation to be honest. I went to an event held in a private school (which charges thousands) and inside it was shoddy with ancient pipes, faulty heating and falling off bits.

exexpat Sun 16-Jun-13 13:58:15

I expect some of them might like to move if they could possibly sell the old buildings for a reasonable price, but who would want to buy a 200-year-old listed building, designed as a school, which you are not allowed to adapt?

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 15:15:10

It's not so easy as to just sell them. My school was half in a listed building and half in more modern accommodation. There simply wasn't the funding to build more new buildings and there was no way to adapt or demolish the listed building.

The school was on 400 acres of parkland and the main building was the focal point of the school. It is very unfortunate that disabled pupils cannot access certain areas of the school (very steep steps, too narrow for a wheelchair user to even fit up), but the school cannot do a thing about it. Ideally, they would, but legally they can't.

BaconKetchup Sun 16-Jun-13 15:19:19

It's expensive gimmeanaxe

And sometimes they like the tradition of the old buildings

Calabria Sun 16-Jun-13 15:24:25

Oh hills and wheelchairs. I often acted as a brake for my ex bf when he was negotiating hills. He is very independent but will accept help for steep hills. It is extremely tiring going up and there is a risk of getting out of control going down.

He also had awesome upper body strength. Something a school child might not have.

My daughter's school buildings are very old with many stairs. In some places you have to go up five stairs, along a narrow corridor and then down seven stairs. Nightmare for the disabled. But they did rebuild a large part of the junior school last year and that bit is accessible to everyone.

TheBuskersDog Sun 16-Jun-13 15:55:11

As we don't actually know what country the OP is in comparing what would happen in this country is not really useful. Many countries are way behind the UK in their attitudes to people with disabilities of any kind, so if she is in a country that is still in the dark ages generally with regard to disability accessible mainstream schools are not going to be considered important.

crashdoll Sun 16-Jun-13 15:55:28

Hills can be tricky to navigate for wheelchair users, they can also be difficult for those with other mobility disabilities.

WestieMamma Sun 16-Jun-13 16:01:24

A lot of old private schools were originally set up in buildings and on land donated to them. Selling them isn't an option if they are tied in by trusts and covenants.

My old school was originally a convent school. Now it's independent and only shares it's name with the convent. However the head teacher told me once that the land ownership reverts back to the convent if the school stopped operating on that site.

Comparing what would happen in this country is useful, because the OP specifically asked "am I right to think that this would not be allowed in the UK?"

It's -- well -- tricky at best to answer that question without talking about what happens in the UK.

CHJR Sun 16-Jun-13 17:04:53

YANBU. DS1 is about to start at one of the academically top private schools in the UK and it's not wheelchair accessible. DS2 is disabled, and so are all his friends. Since he also has SEN, he'd never go there anyway, but it's very wrong that bright pupils who have merely motor disabilities would also be excluded. In fact, I chose DS1's previous school partly on the basis that is was the only one I could find that DID have full wheelchair access for DS2 to come to drop off and pick up. This new school is possible because DS1 is now old enough to go on his own, but I still would have chosen differently if I had been able to find a good school for him that was accessible. Think what a lesson it teaches our children that none of the top academic choices in the UK is wheelchair accessible.* All of them collect fees that should make it possible for them to fund lifts if they gave a F@%& (INSIDE listed buildings, changes ARE allowed: they do put in labs and gyms). They also could afford to boost bursaries substantially to make admissions financial-needs-blind!
In my country of origin it wouldn't be legal for a school to be licensed without being wheelchair accessible. But guess what? Less than one-quarter of London's subway system is wheelchair accessible. And as you notice, the debate about schools gets sidetracked by the many other injustices of the education system in the UK. I struggle with the disjunction between my views on social justice and sending DS1 to such a school at all: it's hypocritical, yes. But I would never put a principle before my actual child. And I feel DS1 already suffers a lot from DS2's disabilities.
Yet I feel guilty, and I wish more fellow parents wouldn't wait till their DC break a leg or something to join me in lobbying <haranguing> these schools!
*(That will prob start a bunfight about definition of "top school academically," but put it this way: Eton is not wheelchair accessible. Winchester is not. Westminster is not. St Paul's is not, despite being built in 60s and 70s. St Paul's Girls is not. Wycombe Abbey is not. Neither are: Sevenoaks School, Godolphin & Latimer, Latymer, Fettes, Dulwich, Alleyn's, King's Wimbledon OR Canterbury... City of London Boys is ALMOST accessible but still not quite! Makes you wonder about the notion they have the best educators?)

thezebrawearspurple Sun 16-Jun-13 17:07:08

The secondary school I went to was made up of several old buildings, steep stairs everywhere and it was very spaced out, we were kept very fit running to class four buildings and five sets of stairs away. There was an older girl in a wheelchair, the school arranged for all of her classes to be on ground floor level in some of the more accessible buildings. I presume that in your schools situation they would adapt to the individuals situation using common sense. As for a kid hurting themselves and having to use crutches for a while, there's nothing wrong with letting them adapt and expecting them to learn to use the stairs, a broken leg is not comparable with paralysis and does not make you disabledhmm

frogspoon Sun 16-Jun-13 17:13:42

All schools in the UK (including private) are required to make reasonable adjustments to allow students and staff with disabilities to attend/ work at the school. These may be e.g. installing a ramp or lift, or ensuring all student's lessons are on the ground floor.

Any new buildings must be fully accessible, the difficulty is adaptation of older buildings. In some cases, the building is too old and would not be able to withstand the adjustment, or a building may be listed and the changes would not be permitted.

Over time as school buildings get replaced with new accessible ones, hopefully this will become less of an issue.

gimmeanaxe Sun 16-Jun-13 17:37:37

It does say a lot that the so-called best schools are not accessible. A mind like Stephen Hawkins would be fucked really if their parents wanted the 'best' school (this isnt to say I believe these places offer the best education though but they do turn out the people who get into power)
Change is certainly needed.

GobbySadcase Sun 16-Jun-13 17:47:43

Yet another one sadly unsurprised at the 'tough shit' posts.
And this of a site with a 'This is my child' campaign.

Mind you HQ have stated that unintentional disablism is ok, so if that's where the marker has been set as a community.... Ho hum.

Jan49 Sun 16-Jun-13 17:50:23

Think what a lesson it teaches our children that none of the top academic choices in the UK is wheelchair accessible.

Probably the same lesson they'll learn from the school being 'inaccessible' to about 95% or more of children because their parents aren't high enough earners.

MrsHoarder Sun 16-Jun-13 18:34:29

Gobby the op didn't ask what would be morally prefect, she asked what would happen in the UK.

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 18:43:33

I love how so many people are referring to me (and others) as having a "tough shit" attitude.

It's more of a "the school cannot legally do anything about it when they are in a listed building" attitude. Ideally, all schools would have perfect disabled access, but when the law states that listed buildings cannot be changed/adapted, what to you lot propose these schools DO?

topbannana Sun 16-Jun-13 18:58:55

When I was a child I remember students on crutches leaving class 5 minutes early- I guess that would happen even in a building with proper disabled access as the risk of being trampled in the crush would be too great.
DS goes to a very small village school with limited space. A bit in a wheelchair joined a couple of years ago, a ramp had been installed prior to that. The problem came with the toilets and access so eventually the boy left and went to a different school. There really was no way that the school could accommodate him (short of demolishing and rebuilding the school) and there seemed to be no issue with that.
If I really wanted my child to go to a particular school and the school could not accommodate their needs I guess I would have to go elsewhere.

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 19:23:28

Yeah, you'd have to go elsewhere, topbanana but why should you?
Why does my dd not have the same rights as your children?

Listed buildings can be changed internally if they are already a school.

CHJR Sun 16-Jun-13 19:39:18

Oh, I know, I know, Jan49. Believe me, if I am a self-confessed hypocrite, I am one who does not sleep well at nights for thinking about this (and who volunteers in the local state school as an assistant, and trustee). My deep fear is that my DS1 is not only going to learn that the world is unfair to the disabled, and to anyone not quite rich, but worst of all that it is too hard for one person to change the world so you might as well not try. I fear sometimes that that is what I have learned since moving here and subsequently having a disabled child. Know what? Not having bags of money to toss around will affect the disabled children even more than the clever -- from what we have found, you can't even get a Statement of Special Needs out of a lot of cash-strapped Local Education Authorities unless you can afford: a) a SAH parent being full-time on the task of getting the Statement for several years; b) lots of private doctors to nudge the NHS into referring your DC to NHS specialists; c) a solicitor. At least, that's what it took us, and we didn't even need the Statement in the sense that we didn't need monetary support for DS2. Those who have the least power to fight for a Statement are the ones who most NEED one. What chance do you think DS2 would have if he had been DS6 in a single-parent family where mother was an immigrant with poor English skills, a well-founded fear of authority, two jobs, no money and no hope or optimism left?

I waver between feeling that my first job as a mum is to advocate for my own children and trying to do as much as I can for other children, not least because I feel it benefits MY children for ALL CHILDREN to be treated properly. No philosophy I've ever heard explains why I have any right to put my own children first. None. But as someone else noted higher up in this thread ... just what are those of you who are not PERSONALLY affected by these problems doing to fix them?

Find me a barricade and I will join you on it. Just as soon as I finish lifting DS2 and his wheelchair up the steps to the barricade ...

livinginwonderland Sun 16-Jun-13 19:40:54

They CAN be changed, yes, but if they're not allowed to change (ie. if they've applied and been denied) they can't really do much about it.

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 19:43:05

Living It is rare that they are turned down under those circumstances, many schools/businesses use it as an excuse believing, quite rightly, that nobody is going to check up on whether they have genuinely applied or not.

Jamillalliamilli Sun 16-Jun-13 19:48:12

I’m (a LP) in a wheelchair and most senior state schools in my borough don’t make their buildings actually accessible and none accept pupils permanently in wheelchairs. They have to go out of borough.

One would be w/c accessible if the lift was fixed. It had been broken three years when I viewed, and two children temporarily in w/c’s were being carried up the stairs by other pupils.

I was told I couldn’t be accommodated to view any part of two schools and not to come, another warned me that they would have to do everything ecept open day by phone if we got in there.

As a parent I’ve forced staff members to hold meetings in the car park, when the school we got used supposed inability to get me into the building, as an excuse to not discuss statementing my child. (Despite having an expensive disabled entrance inaccessible to w/c users!)

When they said they had to cancel because it’s raining, I brought them an umbrella. When they realised this was how it would be, they realised they could let me drive to an accessible door on a hill too steep for a w/c, after all.

My LEA have forced me to attend statementing meetings with them in the dole office interview rooms with angry people and security disrupting meetings. They have an accessible building, but chose to do that.

It is an independent school with mainly listed buildings but a brand new disabled accessible building who heard what was happening and offered use of their facilities if I need to have meetings, FOC.

LEA suddenly realised they could arrange to see me in their offices after all, but I’m now home educating and the offer has been taken up for several other things.

They have several inaccessible listed buildings, but seem able to timetable and room arrange to accommodate any disabled pupil.

It’s all about attitude, not who’s private, who’s state, or who’s on a hill.

GobbySadcase Sun 16-Jun-13 19:48:53

They've made Osborne House accessible. Very sympathetically, as it happens.

I don't buy the "it's listed, it can't be done" line.

CHJR Sun 16-Jun-13 19:50:45

Tell you another shocker: when it became clear that DS's disabilities were intellectual not just physical, everyone around me -- people who knew DS1 was privately educated and whose own children were all god forbid privately educated -- immediately told me that I must put DS2 into the state system because then the state would pay for all his special help. And then you wonder why the state schools struggle. A lot of these oh-so-good private schools surely only get good results because they only accept the easy-to-educate children. Just like this funny thing you have here in the UK where if you're rich and everything's looking healthy you have your baby in the Portland Hospital with champagne on tap -- but if something goes wrong during that delivery, the Portland will pop you in an ambulance or helicopter, paid for by the state, and ship you to the nearest NHS hospital. Whose birth statistics will then show less perfect birth outcomes than the private hospital's. Nice trick, isn't it?
(Don't mean to imply that where I come from is perfect BTW. I'm in the UK semi-voluntarily, and glory in not having to worry about being tear-gassed or arrested at the drop of a hat.)

When you say that they are allowed to alter inside if its a school is that any kind of alteration? Is it not true then that listed buildings Are unable to alter any of the structure inside ?

Just thinking that if the only areas safe to put a lift involves moving old support posts and other original parts of the structure that might be turned down. Whereas of its an addition inside and doesn't mean knocking walls or posts down then that might be given the go ahead?

Dawndonna Sun 16-Jun-13 20:12:05

There are some things that can be done, and some that can't, but as I say, there are many businesses (I include independent schools, here) that do say 'oh we can't', without having applied because it's an easy answer.

EndoplasmicReticulum Sun 16-Jun-13 20:14:23

But OP - you are assuming that your children's school would be unwilling to make any alterations, without having actually asked the school.

Other parents are not the people to ask.

In all fairness op asked what would happen if a child had an accident on crutches and was told about leaving class early. That's pretty standard and fair enough. I mean it would be slot of effort to rearrange timetables and classrooms for a short period of time. 4-6 weeks maybe less depending on injury.

Had the op asked " so how would you cater for disabled students" she may have got a different answer. As the arrangements would have to be long term and less likely to be a sudden situation like a sprained ankle would be. Ie, they would know for the beginning of school year rather than a kid hurting themselves over a weekend and turning up Monday on crutches.

Talkinpeace Sun 16-Jun-13 20:31:07

Oxford University has taken wheelchair students for a long time - there are ways round everything

FyreFly Sun 16-Jun-13 20:31:11

GobbySadcase I would just like to point out in this instance that the reason EH has been able to make Osborne House accessible is due to it's 80 or so years in use as a convalescent home before EH took over management of the property, so that when it was taken into guardianship it was already nearly fully accessible due to the historic alterations. EH now maintains a policy of "preserve-as-is" rather than taking it back to its original state, so the alterations have been kept, and, as you say, are sympathetic.

Most of EH sites are not fully accessible unfortunately, and this does cause a headache when trying to install new exhibitions on partially-accessible sites, for instance where there is already a permanent display already in the accessible space, and you have to put the temporary one in a non-accessible room. It is far, far from ideal, but when I worked for them we had to work within the building's limitations.

I deviate from the point, but it is not true as some have said on this thread that you are only prohibited from making external alterations to listed buildings. Any structural alteration (i.e. putting in a lift / fireplace, even down to installing new doors or windows) would have to be carefully considered before being granted Listed Building Consent.

Blu Sun 16-Jun-13 20:48:28

DS will spend a year of his secondary education using a wheelchair, as he did in primary.

Thanks to the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme our local secondary is having much needed overall improvements - and will open as an accessible school in September. There is another in our neighbouring borough, too.

It really isn't acceptable for the majority of public buildings used by young people and thier families (i.e schools) to be inaccessible.

HollyBerryBush Sun 16-Jun-13 20:57:44

One of my jobs, each year is to mingle amongst parents and visit competitor secondary schools, see what their spiel is, facilities, how the head is talking the talk, quite bluntly so we can negate and counter any thing they say.

I'd be open to naming and shaming a particular school I visited last year that had no facilities for pupils with disabilities, multi floor, no lifts, a 60's build. I queried it and was told "oh we had one of those once" - so I pushed it and said "but you are a sports college, what if a pupil breaks a leg?" and was met with a blank stare.

It's an outstanding school. Personally I wouldn't put my dog in it.

Thereonthestair Sun 16-Jun-13 21:57:14

In the uk, if you have a child in a wheelchair, a we will do by the time he goes to school, what happens, if you have the energy and the money, is you fight, and then you fight some more, and then you keep fighting.

And you get used to it because that's the way it is.

I have a ds with cerebral palsy. He has no learning disability, but he cannot walk.

I want to send him to my nearest school. It's private and has the right ethos for me and my family. I do not want to send him to my state school, not for any reason other than 120 pupil entry for a child who cannot walk is considered madness by us and our full medical team. He would just fall over, get knocked over, even though they have a lift anecdotal evidence indicates that this lift is not really working for children like my ds because if the rest of the school.

Maybe I am wrong in tha but my instinct is it is not the school for ds. And that's without actually even thinking about education, that's just thinking about access and size.

So I want to send ds privately, I struggle with that as in principle I don't approve, but in practice I want to do what I can for ds, and I can afford it. But the state will only pay for medical hours until they change the law next year. We haven't got a statement and we will need a 1 to 1 to allow ds to access the curriculum in the school we want. He can learn but not move from room to room. So we are on for a battle because the choice is denied just because of a disability (not funds). Ds is denied so much because of his disability this is a fight we just have to have.

BlissfullyIgnorant Wed 31-Jul-13 09:34:28

Of my experience in 4 Public Schools, only one was, IMO too difficult to negotiate.
Winchester; ok
Westminster; very accommodating and had to rapidly adapt for a boy who became an amputee during a school holiday
Eton; very accommodating and did install adaptations for a boy who subsequently didn't take up the place
Harrow; on a very steep hill which requires crampons to exit the car park (we ruled this out for this reason)

gimmeanaxe you ask about Eton's accessibility - why? My DS manages very well, thank you. But, didn't you mention you have a daughter? She wouldn't get a place anyway grin

With regard to age of buildings and listed status, the old Wembley Stadium was flattened in spite of its listed status because it couldn't be adapted - the structure's materials meant it couldn't be chopped about for lifts, ramps, etc without rendering the building dangerous. Other adaptations (walkways for visually impaired, for instance) would have meant existing walkways would have been difficult to negotiate in the event of fire as they would have been too restricted in width. The FA, and other interested parties, had such massive wealth that they could afford to do as they were told and change the building to comply with the law and, don't forget, the capacity vastly outnumbers most buildings in the UK anyway.

Any questions???

PenelopePipPop Wed 31-Jul-13 10:16:46

YANBU OP. I'm a UK mother who feels the same way.

In England and Wales the obligations of the school are defined under ss.6, 20 and 85 and Schedule 10 of the Equality Act 2010. All schools, private and state have to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled pupils to avoid substantial disadvantages to specific students. In addition they must develop and maintain an accessibility plan detailing how they plan to promote accessibility of their premises for disabled students over time. This is consistent with our obligations under EU law and also with Art 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I'm not entirely sure whether the CRPD protects disabled pupils access to private education on the same basis as others because Art 24 makes explicit reference to 'free education' but the tone of the preamble is all about equal access which should logically include making sure independent schools cannot discriminate against them.

In any event in England and Wales independent schools cannot discriminate against them because domestic legislation says so.

The position on listed buildings is slightly tricky because the Equality Act obligations don't trump listed building status and the duty is only to make 'reasonable' adjustments. If the adjustments will substantially harm the character of the building to be preserved then they may not be possible. That said plenty of public buildings with listed status have been sensitively altered to become accessible so it is completely possible - the Osborne House example someone posted is a good one.

It should be noted that acessibility does not always or even often require installing expensive lifts or ramps. Many of the changes that make environments more accessible are achieved by applying a little forethought to classroom and corridor layout and can be achieved at minimal cost - the Centre for Accessible Environments is always interesting on this stuff.

MidniteScribbler Wed 31-Jul-13 11:12:13

Has the OP actually asked the school what they would do if a child with a disability applied? Our school was very inaccessible due to the age of the building, but as soon as a child that uses a wheelchair applied, we spent $80k making it as accessible as possible. It was just not something that had been at the top of the priority list until someone came along to make it necessity.

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