Sheffield school ‘unlawfully discriminated’ against disabled pupil

The furious grandfather of a disabled child who was unlawfully discriminated against when he was excluded from a Sheffield school has called for its headteacher and governors to resign.

Tony Baker said his grandson was excluded from Forge Valley School, Stannington, in July 2017 after having a number of ‘behavioural difficulties’ in class.

Tony Baker.

Tony Baker.

But added the teenager was undergoing specialist assessments at the time to determine the extent of his ADHD and PTSD, which he claimed were not taken into account.

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Despite a number of appeals, and a judge finding Mr Baker’s grandson, who he didn’t want to be named, was ‘unlawfully discriminated against’ he has been unable to attend school since the exclusion in July 2017, when he was aged 14.

Mr Baker said the family appealed the school’s decision but the governors upheld it, before an independent review panel at Sheffield Town Hall found the exclusion should be squashed at a meeting in January.

Forge Valley School.

Forge Valley School.

The devoted grandfather then took the matter to a Special Educational Needs Disability Tribunal in September, where Judge Humphrey Forrest deemed the decision made by headteacher Dale Barrowclough to exclude the child was ‘unlawful’.

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Mr Baker said: “This has been a disgraceful performance by Forge Valley Academy School.

“The tribunal judge stated that the act of discrimination had a serious, adverse impact on my grandson and his feelings, which was not only serious but substantial.

“Following the tribunal decision, the headteacher had, in my opinion, no alternative other than to resign.  The fact that he has not done so beggars belief.”

Mr Baker said his grandson’s PTSD was triggered by a number of events, including witnessing a fatal stabbing in May 2016.

He was excluded on the last day of term as a Year 9 pupil and Mr Baker said his family was still trying to sort alternative education provision at college but added he will have to resit Year 10.

Mr Baker said: “It is inconceivable that a headteacher who has unlawfully discriminated against a pupil on the grounds of his disability can remain in office.

“I feel that the headteacher’s position is untenable and that he should be dismissed forthwith.

“In addition, I feel that the governing body of this academy school is not fit for purpose and should resign en bloc.

“The headteacher and governing Body should collectively hang their heads their heads in shame.”

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Mr Baker said the school’s management team had been ordered by the judge to be retrained by an external consultant.

Judge Forrest also recommended that the governing body of the school sent a formal apology to the child’s family and also ordered that a note be added to any record of the exclusion stating that it was an ‘unlawful act of disability discrimination under the Equality Act’.

The tribunal found that a student was unlawfully discriminated against, when permanently excluded, for reasons relating to a mental health disability.

David Dennis, executive headteacher of Tapton School Academy Trust, of which Forge Valley is a part of, said the trust had ‘every confidence’ in Mr Barrowclough and the governors of Forge Valley.

He said: “We have apologised to the student for the fact that we did not know that they had a mental health disability and for any stress or inconvenience this may have caused.

“We have reviewed our procedures and are enhancing our training to staff to assist in identifying and making reasonable adjustments for students with mental health disabilities.

“Tapton School Academy Trust are committed to realising the life chances and dreams of every child.”