Academies putting pupils on ‘reduced timetables’

I am seeing and hearing about a growing number of pupils being placed by Academies on ‘reduced timetables‘, or on ‘vocational courses’ despite being clearly capable of full time and more academic courses. I can’t refer to most of them in any detail because of confidentiality concerns. But I have been given permission by the family involed to talk about the latest one.

The latest was the subject of criticism by the Special Educational Needs and Disaility Tribunal dealing with a complaint of disability discrimination by an Academy against a boy with epilepsy and ADHD.

Despite him having a statement of special educational needs which entitled him to full curriculum access and 18 hours per week of 1:1 support, the Academy responded to his disruptive behaviour by putting him on a two hour a day much reduced timetable. In the end, he was permanently excluded.

His parents complained to the Tribunal.

Earlier this month the Tribunal found that the academy had unlawfully discriminated against him in the provision of education for a reason related to his disability. It found that the academy had failed to make reasonable adjustments by obtaining urgent and relevant advice and support from outside agencies and that ‘that there was, sadly, an attitude of the [academy] treating [the pupil] as a badly behaved boy and not as a boy with a disability that happened to manifest in confrontational behaviour’. Also ‘reasonable adjustments …. could and should been made that would have significantly reduced the substantial disadvantage that undoudtedly accrued to him by the lengthy curtailment of his schooling and/or by his ultimate exclusion’.

Among other things, the Tribunal ordered the academy to apologise and ordered the Head, SENCO, Chair of Governors and SEN Governor to undertake training on the Equality Act with all staff to undertake training on the reviewing of IEPs and Behaviour Management Plans.

Because the issue arose in a discrimination claim before the Tribunal, the other legal issues which they case might have raised did were not directly live. But it is interesting to note that the academy clearly did not consider itself legally bound to make the provision in the pupils statement of SEN.

Notably, it is one of the academies whose funding agreement merely required it to teach the National Curriculum programmes for maths, English and science (and nothing else) ‘so far as is appropriate’ to any pupil; and which made it clear that the academy is ‘not required to teach an individual pupil or group of pupils in one or more subjects where, in the opinion of the principal, it is inappropriate to do so by reason of the pupil’s or group’s ability or attainment’. I imagine that, if the academy thought at all about its legal powers to reduce the curriculum here, it thought that provision gave it the requisite power to act as it did. But nothing in the SENDIST decision suggests that ‘ability or attainment’ were the issue here, so it is hard to see how that would have been the case.

The impression which I often get in such cases is that many academies are not overly concerned with the legality of what they are doing. They consider themselves free to do whatever they want.

  3 comments for “Academies putting pupils on ‘reduced timetables’

  1. trevor fisher
    July 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I have used this case in a paper I have just written which I will draw on for a political quarterly review piece, but I would need to discuss the wider issues. According to the TES 13 7 academies are excluding pupils who have then to be educated in community schools. We can guess who they will exclude. however as I think the maximum class size of 30 still applies, community schools will get full up. At what point do we get to a point where kids have no school? Trevor FIsher

  2. DW
    July 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Local authorities remain under a statutory duty (section 14 of the Education Act 1996) to ensure there are sufficient suitable schools in their area. Following amendments of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 by the Education Act 2010, if a local authority thinks there is a need for more school places in their area, then they (other than in limited circumstances) they have to invite proposals for establishment of a new academy (free school) and submit proposals to the Secretary of STate for his consideration.

  3. Tami Stearn
    March 22, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I am just getting to grips with the rules relating to exclusions (not permanent) and disability discrimination relating to a child with a statement of SEN whose condition does make him confrontational and difficult to manage at times.
    I still find it difficult to believe that schools are able to make rules on behavior, investigate transgressions, judge the outcome of the investigation then impose the punishment with absolutely no external right of appeal except if there is a permanent exclusion. This is absolute power and it is not surprising that it it gets misused.
    My son was excluded for 5 days for a trivial reason on the Friday before half term. Generally exclusions are instant. However on this occasion we had half term and so I manged to obtain an injunction preventing the school from enforcing the injunction while we made representations to governors. I started that quest on the Monday morning and we got the injunction on the Friday. If it had not been half term it would have been a purely pyrrhic victory. Which is not what we want – we want the five days education.
    I had not even seen my son at the time he school told us what they were doing. We asked for time and were refused.
    I am not surprised to see more academies act as though they are above he law – in effect they are!!

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