‘Devastated’ Ramsgate mum transfers daughter from school in row over disability provision

Hannah has moved daughter Francesca to a new school

A row about allowing a St George’s pupil with registered disabilities to be dropped off by her mum in the carpark to avoid the risk of being jostled at the school gate has led to the youngster being moved to a new school.

Hannah Frost, from Ramsgate, had asked St George’s secondary to make provision for daughter Francesca, 13, to be allowed through the gates to the car park area at the start of classes.

Francesca is registered disabled. She has a clip on her heart and her brain is held up by a gauze. This is a result of open heart surgery at just 12 weeks old to save her life, and then surgery when she was four to prevent her brain slipping down her spine.

The youngster also has cerebral palsy and is missing a chromosome which causes a moderate learning disability. She also has extremely rare Pierpont syndrome which has a multitude of effects including moderate to severe global developmental delay.

Hannah, 36, says she requested the car park drop of as a safety measure for her daughter.

She said: “Fran has a lack of co-ordination. Her brain is held up by gauze and any accident with a bump could cause it to fall back down so I didn’t want her amongst hundreds of kids outside on pavement.

“She has an educational health care plan (EHCP) so the school is aware of all this. She has a moderate learning disability which means she doesn’t know left from right and road safety is a no go.

“The Equality Act of 2010  is very clear regarding reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Francesca’s EHCP clearly states her needs and her vulnerability but they wanted my incredibly vulnerable child to line up outside the school where she could be placed at risk of harm.”

‘In tears’

Hannah says her request for the car park drop off point was refused because the school said keeping the car park closed was part of covid-safe measures. The school did provide a member of staff to go outside and watch Fran while she was waiting to be picked up but her mum says there was a near accident.

Hannah said: “The staff member saw me and walked inside. Fran began to follow my car and a different member of staff shouted for her to move to the left and then had to grab her shoulders and quickly move her to safety from an elderly person going fast on mobility scooter.”

Hannah says staff and pupils are allowed to drive in and park so she is bewildered about why Francesca could not be dropped off there.

She added: “I was told people coming in was by appointment only so said make her an appointment for every morning and we will be there on time.”

She says the way the incident has been dealt with has left her feeling ‘hurt’ and her child ‘in tears.’

The mum-of-five is now lodging a (SEND) tribunal against St George’s School for disability discrimination and has completed transfer papers for Francesca to start at Royal Harbour Academy on Monday.

She said: “My request for reasonable adjustment to drop Francesca into the school grounds and safely on site was not a huge ask and would have met the needs of her disability. I feel she has been discriminated against and am devastated and angry.

“She will now start Royal Harbour Academy on Monday with full disabled access to the car park and a disability parking pass.”

‘Unprecedented times’

St George’s head Adam Mirams said: “On Tuesday, September 1 we welcomed all pupils back to St George’s Church of England Foundation School following the summer holidays and a period when, like all schools in the country, we were closed to the majority of pupils due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our priority, as always, is the safety and well-being of all our pupils and staff and we have implemented a number of new measures, in line with Government guidance, to ensure every member of our school community is safe and happy in school.

“We have staggered arrival and departure times to minimise the number of children and young people who are moving through the gates and the doors at the same time. We have also asked parents and carers who drive their children to school not to drive onto the site to reduce traffic movement in the school grounds.

“We will always try to work closely with families and the Local Authority to ensure that reasonable adjustments can be made in individual cases given the changing situation.

“These are unprecedented times and it is not always possible to get everything right for everybody, given the size of the school population. We recognise that some pupils, parents and carers will have concerns around returning to school in September and we continue to work very hard, as a whole school community, to ensure all pupils are safe at all times while on the school site, both in the classroom and outside.”