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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?

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.

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.

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

Right!
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???

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.
YABU

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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