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CP Boy, 11, With A* At Maths GCSE Refused Place At Academy

May 24, 2012

This is part of the Inclusion Rules! Debate at Same Difference.

His amazing academic achievements are enough to make a non-disabled genius do a double take. They only make it all the more unbelievable that the academy doesn’t want him.

Case of 11-year-old with cerebral palsy and A* maths GCSE fuels wider concerns over education reforms and accountability

Two of the government’s flagship academy schools are facing legal challenges over their refusal to admit children with statements of special needs.

One of the cases involves Mossbourne academy in Hackney, east London, which has become one of the most celebrated schools in the country for its academic record.

The school has refused to admit an 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, arguing that it would compromise other children’s education and that it already has a higher than average number of pupils with special needs.

The case has highlighted the fact that academies may not have the same legal obligations to children with special needs as maintained schools. While parents of children with special needs have the right to appeal against a decision at any other school, lawyers are concerned that academies can turn them away with no legal right of recourse.

There are up to 30 cases of children with special needs who have been refused a place at an academy, according to Ipsea, the special needs advice service. They include eight against Mossbourne. The London Oratory school, which converted to become an academy under the coalition, is also facing a special needs legal challenge.

The legal cases could have widespread implications as more than half of secondaries in England are now academies.

Mossbourne was one of the first academies and has won praise from both Labour and the Tories for its pupils’ achievement. In last year’s A-level results, seven pupils from the school won places at Cambridge.

The Learning Trust, which is responsible for education services in Hackney, has refused to name Mossbourne in the boy’s statement, the official document setting out a child’s needs and the help they should receive, including the name of the school they will attend. Such statements are given to children with the most severe special needs and 2.7% of schoolchildren in England have them.

While he is academically gifted – he has already sat his maths GCSE and got an A* – his condition can make him unsteady on his feet. It also affects his ability at practical tasks such as using a ruler.

The boy’s mother, Sarah Creighton, said: “We said, ‘In what way can you possibly say [he] is going to interfere with the other children’s education?’ He’s top of the year in all his subjects, he’s got GCSE Maths A* already, he’s won the pan-Hackney debating challenge two years running, he’s a prefect and a reading mentor at his school. Obviously, I’m his mother, and I’m very, very proud of him. But I think I’m justifiably very proud of him.”

The Creighton family’s lawyers say that Mossbourne has refused to accept that the special educational needs tribunal – a court which hears school place appeals by parents of children with such needs – should hear the case. They say the school claimed it was not governed by the legislation that covers other state schools but only by its own funding agreement with the education secretary.

The Learning Trust applied successfully to have the case struck out but the family has now lodged an appeal with a higher court.

Elaine Maxwell, a partner at Maxwell Gillott solicitors, who is representing the family, said: “The academy may have good grounds for refusing to take a particular child in an individual case, but that should be an argument they make before a tribunal – they shouldn’t have it struck out before they get there.

“When you get a school saying it’s full, that’s not an end to it. The child or his parents should be able to say: does our disadvantage outweigh the disadvantage to other children? There’s a balancing act that has to be struck.”

She added: “How are academies accountable? This has been inherent in academies from the beginning. If academies aren’t bound by SEN provisions and the tribunal system, then the parents of a child with a statement have fewer rights than anyone else.”

Mossbourne has told the family that their son’s admission “would be incompatible with the efficient education of other pupils at the academy”. A local authority can legally decline to name a school in a statement if the child’s presence would have a negative impact on the education of existing pupils. This could mean, for example, reducing the level of pastoral care available to other children.

The academy argues that it had nearly 1,600 children applying for 200 places in its September 2012 intake. Of those applicants, 53 have statements. Of the 53, 28 named Mossbourne as their first preference. Nationally, 21% of schoolchildren have some form of special needs but at Mossbourne the proportion in each year is 26%-28%.

The boy’s family argue that his statement comes with funds that would help the school to provide for him.

Creighton said: “Part of me feels that this seems so blatantly wrong: that a school can say, ‘These regulations set up to protect disabled people don’t apply to us, so we don’t have to live by them.’ That seems so wrong, that anyone would be able to do that.”

A spokesman for the Learning Trust said: “As a matter of policy we do not comment on cases of this nature. Depending on the terms of the funding agreement between an academy and the secretary of state, the academy may not have to admit a child even if the school is named in the child’s statement.”

The case against the London Oratory, a Catholic school in Fulham which became an academy last year, concerns an 11-year-old boy from Croydon. The school has declined to be named in his statement, and again cited the argument that it would compromise the “efficient education of other children”.

Chris Barnett, lawyer for the family concerned and head of the education and disability law department at Levenes, said: “If it hadn’t been an academy, the authority would have named it [in the statement]. Croydon’s position seems to be that it doesn’t accept the arguments the school has put forward, but they still won’t name it. It seems to me that the LA [local authority] doesn’t quite know how to deal with it because it’s an academy.”

A tribunal hearing in the London Oratory case is due next month.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Hargrave permalink
    May 24, 2012 5:05 pm

    I am not at all surprised these Academies are refusing place to disabled children. They want to be shown to be ‘elitist school’ choosing able bodied students instead of those children with disabilities. This will overload the system and people who disabled, whether they are very clever, or not, will be ‘dumped’ onto state education. These Academies show just how divisive they are, having their own rules and regulations, and flouting the principles adopted by all schools. They are just following the Tory elitist programme, and sod the rest. I hope local state schools will show them the error of their ways in both in performance and fairness. Get rid of Academies now..

  2. May 26, 2012 7:57 pm

    I had a look at Mossbourne’s website and it’s a brand new building — there is no way it couldn’t be accessible, so it begs the question of building brand new schools with all the modern facilities so that headteachers can ban academically able children with disabilities, particularly relatively minor disabilities like his (it doesn’t sound like he needs a wheelchair, for example, but even if he did, a brand new building like that would have lifts). It reminds me of the girl who was rejected by Coloma convent school in Croydon for having a similar disability, on the grounds that she would find getting from lesson to lesson difficult because of all the girls rushing round — the idea that they could just expect the girls not to rush or to be careful doesn’t seem to have occurred to them, and there was even a letter from a pupil in the Croydon Advertiser saying it was a lovely, friendly school, but there was no place for her there because of the narrow corridors and rushing girls. Lovely school, don’t let a spastic upset the friendly vibe.

    As for Mossbourne, for all the talk of a “community academy”, it’s nothing of the sort, clearly, as they have no sense of responsibility towards the children of the area — only those that offer them easy results. He probably knows more than some of the staff and that intimidates a lot of teachers. I hope a private school somewhere will offer him a scholarship.

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