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Discrimination in schools

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland have received information from parents to indicate that some children are being prevented from going on school trips or joining school teams as a direct result of their diabetes.

Under Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act, responsible bodies for schools must not discriminate against disabled pupils in relation to their access to education and associated services. This is a broad term that covers all aspects of school life including school trips, school clubs and activities

Schools should be making reasonable adjustments for disabled children including those with medical needs at different levels of school life; and for the individual disabled child in their practices and procedures and in their policies. 

Department of Education

On 13 September 2010, following communication with Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, MLA Paul Frew asked the then Minister for Education, Caitriona Ruane, if she aimed "to improve care for children with diabetes and end discrimination against diabetic pupils who face exclusion from school trips and extra curricular activities as a result of their condition?".  In the Minister's response she stated that "No child should face exclusion from school trips or any other activity for the reasons the Member referred to".

Following this a letter was sent to every school to highlight the question and the Minister's views on the issue.

Policy for school trips

Adhering to the Children (NI) Order 1995, schools must bear three main principles in mind when organising and sanctioning visits:

  1. The young pupil's welfare, which overrides all considerations, must always be paramount
  2. The pupils have the fundamental right to be protected from harm
  3. Special consideration must be given to pupils who have special educational needs, as they may be particularly vulnerable

Best practice guidance indicates that the Board of Governors for a school, and their principal,  must ensure the school has a written policy on educational visits and that a risk assessment has been carried out. 

If your child has been told they cannot go on the school trip ask to see a copy of the risk assessment form.  If it identifies a genuine and real risk to your child which means it is unsafe for them to go then it must be accepted that it is in your child's own interest not to attend. 

If no reason is identified or you feel it is not accurate you should raise this with the school by calmly indicating your reasons.  If you still feel unhappy with the response contact the relevant Education and Library Board. 

Ultimately, a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal for Northern Ireland (SENDIST) will decide if less favourable treatment has occurred and whether or not that treatment was justified.

Releasing the school from their responsibility

On occasions parents may be tempted to release the school from responsibilities in order to ensure their child can attend a school trip or activitiy. 

It should however be noted that any agreement signed by them, which releases the school from making reasonable adjustments or indicates that no action will be taken if the pupil is excluded, is not legally binding and is therefore not an option for the parties involved. 

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