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I should know the answer to this, but don't! (Private schools admitting disabled/SEN pupils)

(9 Posts)
pannetone Wed 12-Mar-14 22:59:39

Reading the thread about whether a 4 year old can be excluded from a private school for their behaviour has left me pondering...

Is it discrimination when a private school tells me (as they have done recently in relation to my DS3) that they 'cannot meet the needs' of those on the autistic spectrum? Seemed rather a discriminatory stance to me when they hadn't even met DS - who is very able but very anxious.

Then another school which I enquired about for DD - who is also on the autistic spectrum - told me that they might not be able to take her as the school was 'selective'. I clarified that I knew it was an academically selective school and that would not be a problem as DD is able. I was then more or less told that 'selective' could mean limiting the number of children with SEN that the school could take, or, even worse, that the school no longer wanted to take children with SEN. The learning support lady then told me the school couldn't take SEN pupils as 'unlike state schools' they didn't receive funding for SEN. But if your child got a Statement for a private school that would cover all the costs surely, so the school wouldn't be 'out of pocket'.

So I am confused -despite the fact I have a bit of knowledge about the Equality Act having 'won' a disability discrimination case against DS2's (state) school. Surely the Equality Act applies when my DC's SENs arise from a disability? Seems all very well stating that a private school can't dicriminate against a disabled pupil once there - surely there are provisions that mean private schools can't have a 'blanket' policy of not a taking pupils with a certain disability?

Of course I don't want my DC to go to a private school with the attitudes I have set out above, but seeing as there is no specific HFA provision in my LA, I had been hoping that the small class sizes of a private school would be an option.

Bilberry Wed 12-Mar-14 23:20:46

Organisations (including private schools) are only required to make reasonable adjustment - that does not include employing additional staff. Most private schools are business that require good results to attract new pupils so they are not interested in those that will bring those results down. The small class sizes look attractive but are not small to be supportive to individuals that are struggling but rather to push for those good results! There is probably quite a small distinction between legal selection of some pupils and discrimination but as you are unlikely to push to get your dc in a school that doesn't want them they can get away with it.

zzzzz Wed 12-Mar-14 23:26:26

Private schools can pretty much do what they like as far as my experience goes. As an observant bystander I would say there are many children with undiagnosed ASD/ADHD/dyslexia/dyspraxia.

zzzzz Wed 12-Mar-14 23:30:20

The key with a private school is not to disclose dx.....daft but true. I think this must be quite common because they appeared convinced that my un-dx'd ds was hiding his dx to the point of phoning his rather embarrassed consultant!

radioison Thu 13-Mar-14 09:32:47

Some are more SEN friendly than others but sometimes this is just done to put bums on seats and the training of the support staff (which you might be asked to fund as an extra) is not great.
Others might have genuinely great learning support departments.
I think it is a massive grey area and while there might be a case to be had, it is better just to think "lucky escape" and walk away to somewhere better

pannetone Thu 13-Mar-14 16:37:39

Thanks - yes I agree that I will be steering clear of a private school that appears to be using 'selection' as discrimination.

zzzzz but if you don't disclose your child's diagnosis a) how can you know the school's attitude to meeting need (and might your child be 'eased' out of the school having started, and b) you wouldn't get any protection under the terms of the Equality Act if you didn't disclose your child's disability?

Yes radioson I am suspicious of schools that want you to meet SEN support costs as an 'extra' - it doesn't follow that those are the best at meeting needs.

zzzzz Thu 13-Mar-14 16:41:17

I know pan as I said this is the only reason I can think of for the frankly weird behaviour of our SENCO. Mine can't "pass for normal" though so it's not really an issue (and he is HE now!)

Icimoi Thu 13-Mar-14 22:43:48

If a statement names a private school then the school gets funding, but if it's a mainstream independent it's pretty rare for any LA to agree to name it in a statement.

2tirednot2fight Mon 17-Mar-14 20:54:04

Unless of course the private school owner has links to officers of the La, the school is struggling financially and a statement with lots of provision brings in the funding to support their existing SEN provision.

Wish I had trusted my instincts and kept well away!

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