In the news last week, the mother of a child with Down's syndrome who was treated unfairly by her nursery school commented that the apology given would never suffice.
A case was brought against Trinity Nursery School in Bangor, County Down, by the parents of a student, Michelle and Alan Cummins, whose daughter Amelie attended the school.
The family learned that their five-year-old daughter, Amelie, would have to arrive at school 15 minutes later and leave 15 minutes earlier than the other children.
The Trinity Nursery School acknowledged that they had not provided equal treatment to Amelie due to her special educational needs and had not implemented any reasonable adjustments for her.
Despite their apology, Mrs Cummins declared that it "would never be enough". She expressed to BBC News NI,
"How much education must my daughter lose out on? It just wasn't acceptable and we raised it, so the environment became quite hostile."
A special educational needs statement for Amelie specified that she attend a mainstream nursery school with 22.5 hours of one-to-one support in the classroom every week.
In September of 2020, she was enrolled in Trinity Nursery School, however, her family was informed that she was to begin her academic day 15 minutes after her classmates, even though she was provided with a personal classroom assistant.
Amelie's family claimed that the school had asked for her to leave the nursery 15 minutes before the scheduled time; however, they refused to comply with the request. After a period of three months, Amelie's parents decided to take her out of nursery school.
The Equality Commission backed the family as they submitted a complaint concerning discrimination against Trinity Nursing School. The Cummins stated that the entire ordeal was one of the most difficult experiences they have had, and that the two-year process of settling the case was exceptionally stressful.
Mr Cummins articulated that it was the right course of action to take and that they wanted to remain on this path in order to avoid this experience for any other child.
The parents lamented that their daughter had gone through discrimination, and that they had sought the help of the Equality Commission to take the case. While they wished it had never happened, they did feel a sense of satisfaction that they had been right to take action.
According to Mary Kitson, a high-ranking legal representative of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,
"It is not acceptable for any student to be discriminated against due to their disability. All students should be given the chance to reach their potential in their education, regardless of they have a disability. The commission is pleased to have come to an agreement with Trinity Nursery School to collaborate in fulfilling the requirements of the Disability Discrimination legislation and proper educational standards."
A representative from Trinity Nursing School declared that, as an institution, they are devoted to the idea of providing equal chances for all disabled students. While they are unable to address individual cases, they are ready to take away any lessons from the situation.
"We are committed to making sure that all our policies and practices comply with national laws regarding disability discrimination in education as well as with best practices. To reach this goal, we will work with the Equality Commission."
At Milestone Education, we understand how important it is that children with SEND receive the same opportunities as all other children and that their needs are given due consideration. One way to ensure this is through training courses which provide guidance and strategies to help support children with SEND. If you would like further information or support, we have a range of consultancy services and training courses to help Teachers and schools better understand and cater to the needs of children with SEND. With these tools, schools can navigate the individual and diverse needs of their children and ensure they receive the education and support they need to reach their full potential.
For Consultancy services, email N.Watts@milestoneeduation.co.uk