Getting support for a disability tribunal

by Geraldine Hills. What you need to know before you consider a disability tribunal claim against a school or nursery.

Man, woman and children outdoors

Introduction

If you decided to tell the school or nursery about your child’s disability then you have every right to ask what ‘reasonable adjustments’ they are making for your child.

The law insists that schools and nurseries (as well as employers and other places) make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for children with disabilities (under the Equality Act 2010). The law defines a reasonable adjustment as a reasonable step taken to prevent a disabled person suffering a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled.

Schools and nurseries must have a procedure for parents to complain. Before it gets more serious, all complaints should start informally and see if they can be resolved by a chat, e.g. with the class teacher or head teacher. You could ask for a copy of the complaints procedure to inform the head and chair of governors of your concerns, and request a meeting.

You are the expert on your child, and you and the school/nursery should work as partners to find out what changes they can make. However, if you have talked through what you feel would be reasonable and you are still not happy with the way in which your school/nursery is behaving towards your child - in relation to inclusion and educational provision - there are ways in which you can complain.

It is important that you understand the best way to complain before you think of taking your case to a tribunal. However, a Tribunal Service is there to make sure that your claim is dealt with fairly and justly.

Extra information

The tribunal process for schools/nurseries starts when a parent of a disabled child believes that the school/nursery has discriminated against their child because of the child’s disability. More information for parents wishing to bring about a claim of disability discrimination in schools/nurseries can be found in the ‘Answers from the web’ section, to the right of this page.

You can ask for support from the Parent Partnership Network when trying to talk to school/nursery about your complaint. It is a good idea to take someone with you if you are going to have a meeting to discuss a complaint as it can be hard to stay focused on what is being said to you if you feel emotional (as we often can when it comes to talking about our children).

If you do decide to bring a claim against a school/nursery, preparing your claim may involve you gathering evidence to support your tribunal case which might consist of documents supporting your claim and possibly witnesses. There are organisations that can guide and help you through the tribunal process, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA).

One of the most important things that you can refer to is a copy of the ‘Special Educational Needs Code of Practice’ as this has information that you can share with the school/nursery before you think about taking your case to the Tribunal Service.

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Top tips

  • Before you make a claim to the Tribunal Services:Start with the school/nursery complaint procedures first.Try to include precise details of dates, times, meetings and decisions that may help the responsible body understand the substance of your complaint.Say what you would like the responsible body to do to put things right - e.g. offer an apology, provide extra support for your child or change a school policy.Keep a record of all your correspondence.Try to stay clam and focus on the outcome you want.

Expert opinion

From my own experience of having to taken a school to tribunal, it can be stressful and time consuming. I would strongly recommend that you try to resolve any issues you have with your school/nursery at local level first.

Contacting the Parent Partnership Network, the Equality and Human Rights Commission or any other organisation you can find that will support you in your first attempts at complaining will help you to have a much stronger tribunal case should you need to.

Geraldine Hills, Special educational needs and disability consultant

Parent's tale

Mark’s son has a visual impairment and the nursery has told Mark that the playground is uneven with potholes, so could pose a danger. The nursery says it is going to keep Mark's son inside at play time for health and safety reasons.

Mark is considering bring about a claim of disability discrimination against the nursery but before he does this he seeks advice from the Parent Partnership Network. Mark writes a complaint letter to the nursery so the nursery is aware that Mark is unhappy.

Mark did the right thing in seeking support when complaining to his nursery. If things do not improve than Mark can choose to file a complaint to the Tribunal Service.

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