Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders


Victim's rights

It has been a long time coming, but a parent has succeeded in overturning a decision made by the governors to return to the same school the student who hit her child over the head with an iron bar.

This raises a new complication in exclusion decisions. The rights of the victim have often been given verbal acknowledgement. This case has given them legal recognition.

Personal data

An important case has conclusively established the basis on which people can demand data that refers to them: it must be essentially biographical and held in a system that allows it to be readily retrieved.

There is no requirement to respond to a request for "everything held on my child". It is only information held in a way that can be readily accessed. This is not an excuse for muddled filing of course.

Schools and colleges should have disclosure policy and procedures as part of their data policy and it should be easily to hand for staff to refer to in cases of doubt.

The definition of 'disability' continues to widen. The extension of the definition to cover mental conditions that are 'not medically well-recognised' is the one most likely to give problems in schools and colleges, as an increasing number of behaviours that would have been regarded as anti-social are being redefined as 'syndromes' at a rate which medical experts are unable to keep up with. The diagnosis of these conditions is still often a matter of controversy among medical scientists.

For schools and colleges, it is important to remember that the duty is to avoid discrimination if possible but, if a disability makes it impossible to have a pupil in the school under normal circumstances, reasonable adjustments must be made.

These include training for staff, making staff aware of those pupils suffering from the disability, making changes to timetable and support arrangements, reasonably committing resources to finding a solution and seeking support and advice from the local authority and other services.

If all this is unsuccessful, then it will be justifiable to say that the school or college cannot manage to have the pupil in school.

For staff, recent cases have established that an employer should not wait for proof that an employee is disabled if it is reasonable to assume that he or she is. An FE college that considered that a teacher's weakened voice was not a disability - and continued to timetable him in noisy workshops and not to consider alternative jobs for him - turned out to be expensively mistaken.

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