Wales

Girl home-schooled due to lack of disabled toilets in Monmouthshire

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Media captionImogen Ashwell-Lewis has missed 20 months of school

An eight-year-old girl has been home-tutored for 20 months because of a lack of disabled toilets in schools.

Imogen Ashwell-Lewis has cerebral palsy and has not been able to find a school with suitable facilities since leaving Rogiet Primary in June 2018.

Monmouthshire council said it was following Welsh Government guidance.

A disability charity said many parents of disabled children felt their youngsters were "a bit of an afterthought".

Imogen's mum Catherine Ashwell-Rice, from Caldicot in Monmouthshire, said her daughter left Rogiet Primary after she raised a series of concerns.

These resulted in her bringing a disability discriminatory appeal at a special educational needs tribunal for Wales.

The council said it had worked "with all agencies and Mrs Ashwell-Rice to resolve the situation in 2018".

But Mrs Ashwell-Rice said she had learnt Rogiet is the only Monmouthshire school with a child accessible disabled toilet - and she has had a 20-month battle to get Imogen into another school.

"Some of the schools were unsuitable because of the physical make up of them," Mrs Ashwell-Rice said.

"And then we kept going further and further afield until we found schools that were suitable."

Image copyright Catherine Ashwell-Rice
Image caption Imogen has been without a school since leaving Rogiet Primary in 2018

Despite promises adaptations would be made to a number of schools, the situation remained unresolved.

Monmouthshire council is paying for home tuition for Imogen for three hours, four days a week.

Mrs Ashwell-Rice said the last few months been "an emotional rollercoaster" for herself and Imogen.

"Every time we think we've got a school and that things are going to move forward, we discover that the adaptations can't be made, or that we're promised they'll be done and they haven't.

"It's obviously been really disruptive for Imogen's education."

Image caption Imogen Ashwell-Lewis has suffered a "rollercoaster of emotions", her mother says

Disability Wales chief executive Rhian Davies said it was a familiar tale.

"And despite 25 years of equality legislation, we're still not getting it right in Wales," she said.

"We're still a long way off a fully inclusive education system."

A Monmouthshire County Council spokesman said toilets were provided according to Welsh Government design guidance.

"Pupils' needs are assessed on an individual basis and further adaptations to toilets in disabled facilities are made if necessary," he said.

The spokesman said an independent mediator was used to try and resolve the situation which led to Mrs Ashwell-Rice withdrawing her complaint to the Disability Discrimination Tribunal.

He said the authority was working closely with Mrs Ashwell-Rice "and other agencies to ensure that Imogen's needs are fully met in a school setting".

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