Parents drop case of girl banned from skiing trip

25th February 2011 at 00:00
Parents of a disabled girl prevented from going on a skiing trip have dropped legal action against Glasgow City Council, TESS has learnt.

The case, which has echoes of a much-publicised dispute involving an Inverness primary (see below), is likely to have implications for other councils concerned about how to balance inclusion and children's safety.

With new equality legislation giving parents greater powers to insist that their children go on school trips, headteachers can increasingly expect to face legal action if they rule that a pupil cannot take part.

The Glasgow P6 pupil's parents had insisted that she be allowed to go skiing, but the school was concerned about difficulties ensuring her safety.

The headteacher told TESS this week that, after the parents expressed a desire for their daughter to go on the trip, staff had done everything possible to make it feasible.

But teachers had remained concerned. The tour operator had never undertaken a trip involving any child with the girl's condition: she was in a wheelchair and had spina bifida as well as other health problems requiring daily treatment.

The decision had not been reached lightly, said the headteacher of the school, which cannot be named for legal reasons. The girl, who has learning difficulties and was later moved to a special school, had been with them since P1 and taken part in previous trips and activities such as swimming. The trip, on which 37 out of 74 P6s were due to go, cost pound;250 per pupil; the cost for the girl was calculated at pound;3,000.

The girl's parents remained adamant that she should take part, leading to legal action in which Govan Law Centre sought a judicial review of the decision and the council's relevant policies at the Court of Session.

The case was dropped in October, eight months after the trip went ahead as planned; legal proceedings were only concluded in the last few weeks.

Iain Nisbet, head of education law at Govan Law Centre, said the case was only dropped after the city council provided assurances that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funds the law centre, would be consulted on any changes to Glasgow's school trips policy, in light of the Equality Act which came into force on 1 October.

The new legislation would give stronger rights to pupils prevented from going on school trips.

Maureen McKenna, Glasgow City Council's executive director of education, said: "We are happy to review our policy as we would be doing anyway in line with the new Equality Act, but as we did not unlawfully discriminate we do not need to change it to ensure there would be no unlawful discrimination."

Echoes of earlier Inverness case

A similar case in 2009 involved Crown Primary in Inverness. A P6 class trip to Craggan Outdoors in the Cairngorms was cancelled when a mother threatened legal action because her disabled daughter was told she could not go. An alternative trip to Badaguish Outdoor Centre in Aviemore was offered, but the mother said her daughter would still not be able to participate in activities, even though the centre was equipped to cater for disabled children. She subsequently dropped her legal action. Highland Council said this week that the case had not resulted in policy change and that headteachers retained the same amount of autonomy in deciding whether a child should go on a trip.

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