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SCHOOL LOSES FIGHT TO OVERTURN DISCRIMINATION RULING

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A Doncaster Catholic school's fight to overturn a tribunal's finding that it 'discriminated' against an autistic pu...
A Doncaster Catholic school's fight to overturn a tribunal's finding that it 'discriminated' against an autistic pupil ended in bitter defeat.

Top judge, Mr Justice Silber, said he could detect no error of law in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal's ruling that McAuley Catholic High School had breached the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

In the first case of its kind, the tribunal had dismissed all but one of the complaints levelled against the school by the pupil's parents, but found there had been a 'lack of pastoral support' on the school's part.

In July this year, the tribunal ordered the school to produce an 'action plan' to deal with the specific needs of children on the autistic spectrum, or with communication difficulties, and directed that a mentoring system must be established.

The tribunal's decision was the first time such a ruling has been made against a school under the 1995 Act.

The school's barrister, Mr John Friel, mounted a wide-ranging attack on the tribunal's decision, but the judge nevertheless dismissed the appeal.

He said it was clear that the school's head teacher, Mary Lawrence, would be 'disappointed' by the decision - but it was not the court's role to question the Tribunal's view of the merits of the case.

The court only looks for 'errors of law' and the judge concluded: 'My conclusion is that there are no such errors so that the decision of the tribunal cannot be impugned and that this appeal must be dismissed'.

Whilst clearing the school of the parents' other complaints, the tribunal had found that the school's pastoral care system failed to give the boy the personal guidance and support he needed because of his disability.

Mr Justice Silber said there was 'ample evidence' to justify the tribunal's ruling that 'more active pre-planned management' would have made a difference to the boy's time at the school.

He concluded: 'I am quite satisfied that these conclusions were op en to the tribunal on the facts and I am unable to accepts Mr Friel's criticisms.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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