Change the trip

Q My daughter's school is planning a geography trip to a rural residential centre. The trip will last four days and will involve the students undertaking exercises as part of their geography curriculum.

My daughter has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair and I have been told the centre is not accessible for wheelchair users, since all the bedrooms are on an upper floor and there is no lift.

The school has asked if I would agree for my daughter not to attend and has offered to provide additional tuition to cover the lessons lost. But I think this is wrong. I would like my daughter to attend and I would like them to make the necessary changes for this to happen.

A Since September 2002, amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, brought about by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, have required schools to ensure they do not discriminate against disabled pupils.

Discrimination is defined as either treating a pupil less favourably without justification, or failing to make reasonable adjustments (provided they do not require the school to provide additional staff or equipment).

Asking your daughter not to attend this course would clearly be less favourable treatment, although the school may say it is justified since it simply cannot accommodate her.

The vital question is whether there are reasonable adjustments the school could make.

While it is unlikely the school would be required to make physical changes to the centre, it may well be that it could take steps to secure an alternative venue.

If this is the case, then unless the school does so, it may be acting unlawfully.

David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk

Please email questions to SNExtrates.co.uk or write to TES Extra for Special Needs, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London ElW lBX.

Neither writer can enter into correspondence with readers.

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