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Independent school says can't meet needs - acceptable or discriminatory?

(25 Posts)
pannetone Tue 16-Dec-14 20:46:39

I am getting into knots over this.

DS (year 8, HFA, anxiety, academically very able) has his final statement which in Part 4 just says 'mainstream school'. The LA are asking me to name one - they haven't consulted with any.

DS has been out of his state MS since Jan - he was signed off as medically unfit with anxiety. Since then he's been educated at home, since Sep with internet school.

We think DS's needs can be met with the small classes and overall smaller scale of an indi school. The school we think is suitable is academically selective. We don't think the entrance test will pose a problem for DS. BUT the school won't let him sit it because they say they can't meet the needs in his statement.

The school says they can't provide the provisions in the statement of 'small teaching groups (where appropriate)' and an 'identified adult to link with at regular times of the day'. BUT DS doesn't need to be withdrawn into small groups and the small class size there (15) for all lessons would met his needs. And DS doesn't need an 'identified adult' beyond his form tutor.

So I thought the school were saying they couldn't take DS because they didn't have the right provision, and I was going to work on getting the statement amended to reflect DS's actual needs of a small class size, calm environment, appropriate peer group etc. (all these amendments backed up by our indi EP report were refused at draft statement stage).

Now I realise it looks more like the school don't want to meet need, rather than can't. They are looking to appoint a new SENCO and the job description says his/her responsibilities will include one-to-one tutorials where appropriate, small group teaching, and in class support. All the things they told me they couldn't provide. sad

In addition I have had no reply to my email to the head asking explaining DS's needs and why we consider the school is right for him. At the end of the email I even said that if the LA refuse to amend the statement we would elect to make our own provision (as you can with a statement) and would meet the fees ourselves, so the school didn't have to commit to the statement provision.

I spoke to IPSEA today and the advisor did suggest that the school's attitude sounded 'disingenuous' and that I could have a case against them at tribunal - he meant disability discrimination.

I don't know whether to feel sad or angry or whether to run a mile or fight for a place. DS wants to go there but I don't want him at a school that doesn't want him!

ouryve Tue 16-Dec-14 20:53:54

I would feel the same. It's only worth the fight if you actually want the outcome.

Did you ask whether the school might be concerned that fees would be met, but not the cost of the provision in the statement? That could be a reason for their coolness towards the idea of taking him on.

Taramara Tue 16-Dec-14 21:13:49

I say run!
Been through something similar
He wasn't wanted
They couldn't outright say leave - but we were pushed

He has now gone somewhere that wants him and the difference to us all is huge
What are your other options?

cansu Tue 16-Dec-14 22:19:47

I think that they just don't want him. This is awful but judging from other people's stories quite typical of indie schools.

pannetone Tue 16-Dec-14 22:20:14

Thanks ouryve and Taramara - it is not looking like a good option...

ouryve I did emphasis to the school that we weren't looking for DS to be withdrawn into small groups or for mentoring throughout the day and would ask for the statement to be amended. And I did say if we couldn't get the amendments we would meet fees ourselves so the school didn't have to be bound by the statement.

We actually visited the school early this year when the school knew DS had ASD, but pre-statement. His needs were the same then - and I talked to the school about them. They seemed quite keen to have him then - I was handed the application form and they were happy to arrange for him to do the entrance test. We didn't go ahead at that stage because DS was just off school with anxiety and we weren't going to rush into a new school.

Taramara - I don't seem to have many options. DS won't cope in a large mainstream with 30 in a class (and all the ones locally are huge) - the setting is wrong and there is no support that would put it right. I have had another indi say they can't meet the needs of those with ASD full-stop.

There is one MS indi that I think will take DS as it has a number of pupils with 'mild' SEN. The snag is that DS isn't keen because they do have pupils with ADHD and with his ASD intolerance, anxiety and sensory sensitivities DS sees classroom chaos where there may only be minor behaviour issues. And he is rather quick to dismiss teachers as ineffective in class control, rather than seeing them taking a measured and proportionate response. So despite several tries back in June we didn't manage to get DS into even one lesson...

ouryve Tue 16-Dec-14 22:29:26

They sound like utter snobs, then, pannetone. I could understand them not wanting a child like DS1 - he's bloody hard work - but for a child like your DS who sounds like he's not nearly so demand avoidant, I think theyr'e just looking for any excuse to rule out any children they feel they may need to make any sort of effort with.

bbkl Tue 16-Dec-14 23:15:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pannetone Tue 16-Dec-14 23:20:00

This is a school which claims to offer 'outstanding pastoral care'...

DS is more inclined to worry that he hasn't completed a task well enough, than avoid doing a task. In his statement he is described by the LA EP and school staff as 'polite', 'compliant', 'able' and 'articulate'. He has a reading age 6 years above his chronological age, spelling 2 years above and a 'positive learning profile' - whatever that means. But evidently that is all negated by his additional needs.

It is just going to be very hard to explain to DS why he can't go there. He will feel he is 'not good enough'sad.

pannetone Tue 16-Dec-14 23:30:09

Don't mind the hijack bbkl, but don't know the answers.

I suspect in theory (and by law under the Equality Act) an indie school has to meet your child's needs otherwise it would be discriminatory. In practice I suspect many indies would be 'easing' your child out.

I'm sure you can still apply for an EHCP yourself if you are in an indi school but I suppose if you get one the LA will make provision in a state school if it can. (In fact AFAIK the LA has to). The fact that your DC is currently in an indi shouldn't affect whether you get an EHCP.

Icimoi Tue 16-Dec-14 23:38:05

Supplying an identified adult to link with is a perfectly straightforward reasonable adjustment which this school should be capable of providing, and the small groups thing is plainly simply a poor excuse.

However, you difficulty is that if the LA doesn't want to name this school, you need their co-operation for the purposes of any tribunal proceedings. They will have to certify that they are prepared to offer a place and you need them as witnesses to say they are able to meet DS' needs. They're not going to do that, are they?

OneInEight Wed 17-Dec-14 07:05:22

We had a similar response when we attempted to place ds1 in a mainstream independent. In their defence ds1 does have a history of challenging behaviour when his needs are not supported well.

I think independents are very scared of other parents complaining or even removing their children from the school. If your child gets 1:1 then other parents will be asking for it as they pay the same fees. They will also be complaining if there is any disruption to the lessons.

We regret not clarifying with the LEA what support would come with ds1. As by this stage they had agreed to fund an out of borough school we are pretty sure they would have funded a TA. I think this would have made him a much more attractive proposition.

At the same time we appreciated their honesty that their staff had not had experience of children with AS because for ds1 how we and teachers approach issues makes a huge difference to his behaviour and anxiety. Mainstream failed for him when he had a teacher who had no understanding of AS so we were very wary of putting him into that environment again. It is a shame as he does very well when he has understanding teachers.

GoldfishSpy Wed 17-Dec-14 07:08:56

Welcome to the Independent Sector.

A big reason for their success is that they can be selective. Unless it is a Special School, They will almost always turn away a student who is deemed to have SEN, unless it is extremely mild.

I do hope you can find a school that will embrace your son.

DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn Wed 17-Dec-14 07:14:38

Have you tried to arrange a face to face meeting with the school to discuss this? It's probably better than emails etc.

princessandthefrog Wed 17-Dec-14 07:36:38

Run for the hills... If they aren't interested and having to persuade them to take him - it's setting you and him up for failure from the start.

Every minor issue, will become a major one. Think how disruptive it will be for him to start then have manage him out...

Had one of mine in a mainstream state school that didn't want them. Was absolute hell. Of course they couldn't say they didn't want my child, but they made our lives unbearable. Leaving was the only option. It's sick how people are over SEN, but it's a sad reality.

Fighting a discrimination battle will sap your energy. Conserve your energy and direct it into getting him somewhere that is able to meet needs and wants to do so. You will both be so much happier.

This is unfair and not right, but really is a case of pick your battles.

BigBird69 Wed 17-Dec-14 08:13:53

We sent our son to an indi for the first three years (recep-y2) he'd had a stroke and had obvious learning difficulties but we hadn't gone down the statementing route at that stage. We chose it because of the small classes and pastoral care. It was really great BUT once at year two they really ramp up the pressure to get results. We were paying ourselves and there are some pretty pushy parents at these schools. We knew our son was struggling, they were helping him but he was also "letting the side down" with their league tables etc. it was also not a nice position for him to be in, knowing he was so different. They offered to employ a TA as an addition to help support DS but her salary would be on top of the fees! We were also paying extra for private speech and Lang. In the end we did go down the statementing route. His education is obviously now paid for but not at this school. It has closed
Doors to independent mainstream schools as they can be selective with who they take, you have to have some kind of positive working relationship with which ever school you go to and unfortunately, as we have discovered, there is so little choice for an SEN child whether you get it funded or pay yourself confused our son is now at an independent specialist school, named and funded on his statement. They meet his needs but it's not without it's fair share of problems.

OneInEight Wed 17-Dec-14 08:29:46

Forgot to say the other thing dh says he wishes he had asked for was whether ds1 could go for a trial period so that the school could actually see if they could cope / meet needs.

pannetone Wed 17-Dec-14 12:35:06

Thanks all.

Icimoi there is no chance of me going to tribunal to argue to get the LA to name this school when they don't want DS!

What I am thinking of more is going to tribunal with a disability discrimation claim. The Equality Act says that a school (including an indi school) must not 'discriminate against disabled people because of something arising as a consequence of their disability, unless the criteria can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.' The 'legitimate aim' defence isn't specified but the guidance says they might include, maintaining academic and behaviour standards, ensuring the health and safety of pupils and staff for example.

DS's additional needs arise from his disability. They could be meet by the school making reasonable adjustments.The guidance specifically says that the financial cost of using a less discriminatory approach cannot, by itself, be used as a 'defence' to discrimination.

Of course, I don't want to take the school to tribunal for disability discrimination. (We did for older DS2 who also has ASD and won against his state school for their failure to make reasonable adjustments so I have experience of the paperwork, time and stress.) And I wouldn't want DS to go there if we won a tribunal as I think it wouldn't be the best start to a working relationship! I am just extremely annoyed that schools can 'get away' with this. And I think DS would be a 'good bet' for a successful claim, he is academically able, no behavioural issues, needs that can be met by straightforward and reasonable adjustments. This is why presumably why the school aren't responding to my emails - they haven't actually got a reason not to take DS bar they don't want the minimal additional needs that come with his ASD.

I have had a face to face meeting with the current learning support lady - I was meant to be meeting the head but that got cancelled on the day of the meeting when I got a call (at 8am) from the admissions lady telling me not to come as they couldn't meet Ds's needs. I persuaded them to let me come to see the learming support lady - who basically said I should look elsewhere.

Your point about the trial period is a good one OneInEight - why can't the school give him one? I think I shall ask....

blanklook Wed 17-Dec-14 12:36:24

It's an independent school, you don't have the choice to send your son there, it's up to them to offer him a place if they want him. What happens is you approach them and if they are interested, they will let you sit their entrance exam. Subject to passing it, you will be offered a place, subject to their rules, ethos etc.
They have already told you they don't want him to sit the entrance exam, and without that he's not going to be offered a place. They could say the same thing to any prospective pupil, and they do, irrespective of any SN.

If you wanted to challenge that, you'd have to be very sure that his SN was the only reason they didn't want him, AFAIK for a lot of indies it's a case of them looking for "their" type of pupil. It's more like a job interview, you have the qualifications and some experience but they are looking for a certain type of person and you either fit or you don't.

When I was looking for Independent secondaries for dd, several were quite open about having zero SN pupils. One took SN pupils but after a short interview and a look around, we weren't offered a place, they wrote and said they didn't think they could offer what she needed. The only SN provision in the one she did attend was 30 mins per week 1 to 1 which we had to pay for on top of the fees. We also had to pay for extra assessments for exam concessions etc.

I think it's a case of pick your battles, the school have said they are not interested, use your energy to find somewhere that wants him. Have you looked at Crested schools? Many have provision for much more than dyslexia.

"It is just going to be very hard to explain to DS why he can't go there. He will feel he is 'not good enough."

Tell him there are no places available.

blanklook Wed 17-Dec-14 12:38:16

xpost, sorry.

DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn Wed 17-Dec-14 13:14:55

Would a trial period be fair on your DS? If you already feel it would be hard to explain why he can't go there because he'll feel he isn't good enough, how will it be if he has actually been and they say no?

pannetone Wed 17-Dec-14 18:16:54

blanklook - I completely get that an independent school can select (eg on faith, academic, single sex grounds) but this should be without being discriminatory, so the offer of a place shouldn't be subject to a school's rules or ethos if they are discriminating on grounds of race, disability or one of the other 'protected characteristics'.

The school will not give me a reason why they won't let DS do the exam now I have pointed out he doesn't need any more adjustments than those already being provided for other pupils with SEN. So it leads me to think that the school don't want DS because he has SEN and they don't want more SEN pupils, or maybe ASD is a SEN 'too far'. And DS meets the 'ethos' of the school generally - it is a faith school and we are church-attending members of that faith ( not that it is a criteria for entry.)

Yes, I regret the fact that I let DS think he would be offered a place at the school. The school were keen to have him when we visited earlier in the year and wanted to arrange for him to do the entrance test. So when we approached them recently and they arramged for us to see the head and learning support teacher I thought it was a 'formality'. I can hopefully 'fudge' the lack of offer of a place by telling him there is a problem with the school meeting the provision in the statement.

TurkeySoup - my thinking about a trial priod was that they wouldn't be able to find a reason why the trial hadn't worked and they'd keep him! More seriously I think the school is having a 'knee jerk' reaction to admitting an ASD child and they need to be educated about each child on the spectrum is an individual with strengths and difficulties - like all pupils actually.

manicinsomniac Wed 17-Dec-14 23:42:40

I'm very surprised that this school is able to refuse to even let your son apply. I'm quite surprised that they'd want to aswell - in my experience academically selective schools attract and are very good with children with HFA. What a shame that he isn't being made welcome sad

I work in a (non selective) private school and, although we never refuse children, we sometimes work very hard at getting parents to see that we are not the right school for their child. About 25% of our children have some kind of additional learning need, ranging from mild dyslexia and dyspraxia to fairly significant autism and global development delay. Most children are very well catered for but there are some for whom it seems unfair to leave them in the school - for example, our children move around the school to specialist subject teachers from the age of 8 and daily sport is compulsory. For some of our little 8 and 9 years with autism or ADHD it would be so much better for them to be in a simple routine in one classroom all day with one teacher and to know exactly what was happening when. We also have no TAs in the classroom (except for children with statements and those seem to be becoming harder and harder to get) and children have to miss lessons for their one to one learning support lessons. Many would really benefit from having someone alongside them in the classroom itself.

So, although I think parents should have a right to have their child at any independent they choose - in practice, I don't believe the independent can always meet the child's needs in the best way possible. Mainsteam primaries seem to be a much more comforting and reassuring environment than a prep.

Having said that, I think a Prep for Y8 would be much more comforting and reassuring that a mainstream secondary.

MadameSin Fri 19-Dec-14 21:04:33

Indi schools vary massively. Yes, they are selective and many won't touch SEN kids with a barge poll, but some will. You have to find the right one. Read through their prospective and if they have a comprehensive SEN/ Learning Support section, they are probably worth a look at. They don't have to offer your child a place and I think IPSEA may be leading you astray because if you took them to task on it, they would simply say they could not meet his needs and it would not be in the child's interest to go there. When I was looking for an Indi for my son (ADHD/SPLD) I stood well clear of the ones that mention SEN out of duty and skim over the topic. You can usually tell what a school's attitude is by their opening line/ethos/school mission. I looked at several that offered and declared suport for those pupils. He started an indi in September that actually claimed in their prospectus to 'nurture the late developer' and that was my child and he is loving it and thriving there - can honestly say he is a different lad. Where are you located?

LIZS Fri 19-Dec-14 21:14:03

Honestly if they are giving you that message now , look elsewhere. It simply isn't worth the battle to achieve a place against their instinct and they could still say no or even worse ask you to withdraw him. Many aren't set up to deal with any SpLDs unless very mild. Within small classes you will still encounter variation, disruption and distraction. One to ones with a non subject specialist probably wouldn't help as he gets older, that is more general learning support for dyslexia et al.

pannetone Fri 19-Dec-14 23:20:51

To update - the school have agreed to 'assess' DS in Jan - I don't know if this involves more than him sitting and passing the entrance test - the school have asked for permission to take up a reference from the secondary he was at for a term.

Thanks for your views Manicinsomniac MadameSin and LIZS.

What I should stress is that I am confident that the school in question can meet DS's needs.What I am concerned about is the school is merely looking at DS's SEN as a label, and as LIZS says going with their instinct. That is discriminatory. The school are perfectly entitled to explain to me why they can't meet need if this is the case (just as a maintained MS can do). All indi schools do vary massively as MadameSin says, but they are not above the law. Admittedly, I do not have much experience of the private sector (DD has just done a term in a 'specialist' indi primary) but I do have experience of discrimination in the state sector - and we won our case when the school tried to 'manage out' DS2. Not that I would want to go that route again of course.

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