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Down’s Syndrome Discrimination: Bangor Nursery Apologies To Pupil

February 2, 2023

The mother of a girl with Down’s syndrome who was discriminated against by her former nursery school has said its apology will never be enough.

Michelle and Alan Cummins, whose daughter Amelie attended Trinity Nursery School in Bangor, County Down, brought a case against the school.

It came after they were told Amelie, who is now five, would have to start 15 minutes later than other children.

The school settled the case and apologised to the Cummins family.

Trinity Nursery School accepted it treated Amelie less favourably due to her special educational needs and acknowledged it failed to make reasonable adjustments for her.

However, Mrs Cummins said its apology “isn’t enough and it will never be enough”.

“Two years is a long time to have to put us through this torment,” she told BBC News NI.

“It’s not something that we’ll get over lightly.

“We had to drive it forward, because it’s not acceptable, and if we’d have done nothing about it we’d have been as bad as them.”

Amelie has a statement of special educational needs, which provided for her to attend mainstream nursery school with 22.5 hours of classroom support each week.

She joined Trinity Nursery School in September 2020, but her family was told she had to start school 15 minutes later every day than all the other children in her class, even though she had a dedicated classroom assistant.

Amelie’s parents alleged the school also wanted Amelie to finish 15 minutes earlier but they refused to accept that.

Amelie’s parents removed her from the nursery school three months later.

Worst experiences

“We refused – how much education must my daughter lose out on? It just wasn’t acceptable and we raised it, so the environment became quite hostile,” Mrs Cummins said.

“Starting nursery is supposed to be positive… it was far from it.”

The family subsequently lodged a discrimination case against Trinity Nursing School with the support of the Equality Commission.

Mr and Mrs Cummins said the case was one of the worst experiences the family has ever gone through, with the two-year settlement process being “quite stressful”.

“We knew in our hearts that it was the right thing to do and that we should stick with it because we don’t want this to happen to any other child,” Mr Cummins said.

“Our daughter has been discriminated against – so there was not a celebration of that occurrence, we wish it had never happened – however we do feel vindicated that we were right to seek the Equality Commission’s help and to take the case,” he added.

The family now hope others will take strength from their actions and pursue their own cases.

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said it is unacceptable that any pupil be treated less favourably because of their disability.

“All children must be provided with opportunities to flourish at school, regardless of whether or not they have a disability,” she said.

“We welcome, as part of the settlement terms, Trinity Nursery School’s agreement to work with the commission in respect of its duties under the Disability Discrimination legislation and good practice in education.”

A spokesperson for Trinity Nursing School said: “Whilst we cannot comment on individual pupils, as a school we will take on board all learning from the case and are firmly committed to the principle of equality of opportunity for all disabled pupils.

“We will also work with the Equality Commission in ensuring that all of our policies, practices and procedures conform in all respects with national equality legislation in relation to Disability Discrimination in education, as well as best practice.”



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