Has our daughter been discriminated against by her choice of college?
My daughter who was 16 years old on 24th of August, attempted to enroll on a Level 3 Diploma in an Arts and Design course at college in September having left her Special School in July 2014. She was diagnosed with ASD/Asperger's in 2008 when she was 10 years old, and had a Statement of Special Educational needs until she left school. She now has a Learning Difficulty Assessment.
Although she met the “Specific Entry Requirements” according to the prospectus, she was still not allowed to enroll because she only achieved a D at English GCSE. This however is not a Specific Entry Requirement. It was heavily inferred by tutors that the Head of School has discretion over entry.
When I read the Ofsted report for the college, there was criticism of the “Outcomes” ie: results. A friend of mine's son (also with ASD), was told at his college that they were taking a risk by allowing him onto a course because it might “affect their results”
My daughter, instead of being enrolled on her course of choice, has been offered a Level 2 course (no qualifications needed to access this) for one year to “See if she can work at this level”..... I suspect that she too has been discriminated against in case she too is responsible for “affecting results”. I am led to believe that this is not the only case at this college of students with special educational needs and would welcome your advice. I have met with the principal and the Head of school but to no avail, and would consider legal action. Do you consider the college's actions as discriminatory?
It is highly likely that the college’s approach is discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. To bring a claim of disability discrimination may well be the only way to reveal to the college the error of their thinking and practice and to get your daughter on the course that she wants to attend as soon as possible. This needs further investigation and careful advice. (The SEND Tribunal does not hear claims of disability discrimination against FE Colleges – a claim would need to be brought in the county court.)
I strongly suggest that at the same time you or your daughter – she should do this herself if she has mental capacity to do so or you can act on her behalf if she does not – request that your LA carries out an EHC needs assessment of your daughter’s education, health and social care needs which could then result in an EHC plan for her. Like a statement of SEN – but unlike an LDA – this gives her a right to the special educational provision specified in it. If she is correctly assessed it should mean the right support will be put in place to ensure her needs are being supported and that she can access the course she wants – maybe even get the results that the College seem so keen to ensure their students achieve! Further information and a model letter you can use to make this request can be found on the IPSEA website.