A school acted unlawfully by refusing to admit a four-year-old pupil who has diabetes, the Department of Education has stated.
Josh Todd should have been starting Year 1 last week, but Bloomfield Primary School in Bangor — which had agreed to accept him and was fully aware of his condition — did an 11th hour U-turn, according to his family.
His devastated parents, Helen and David Todd, claimed Bloomfield Primary had first been made aware that Josh had Type-1 diabetes and was insulin-dependent in January, following his diagnosis. Their son’s blood sugar levels have to be checked regularly throughout the day and he receives four injections daily — one during school hours.
But just days before he was due to start Bloomfield Primary, and after several visits to the school, Mr and Mrs Todd said they were informed that Josh could not be admitted because the school did not have the provision to cater for his diabetes.
Mrs Todd told the Belfast Telegraph: “Legally we have to send our child to school, but in our opinion the school has shown no compassion or willingness to help our son get the education that he is entitled to.
“We believe our son’s school has got their union involved and they have advised them not to volunteer to help us. We both work full-time so are not in a position to provide this care while he is at school. As far we are concerned, this is disability discrimination and a breach of EU legislation.”
A Bloomfield PS statement said: “It is school policy not to comment on individual children.”
On Monday Josh will again be absent from the classroom, but his parents have talked to another school in the area which is willing to administer his medication. It is hoped staff will receive the necessary training and Josh will be able to start school by the month’s end.
The Department of Education said: “Under Article 14 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order it is unlawful for the body responsible for a school to discriminate against a disabled pupil by refusing or deliberately omitting to admit him or her to the school.
“Schools must also be able to show what reasonable steps they took towards ensuring the inclusion of the pupil at the school.
“In his letter to school principals of April 24, 2012, the minister emphasised that all staff voluntarily undertaking a medical procedure were legally indemnified by the employer, providing certain conditions applied, and encouraged all principals to ensure that all relevant staff were aware of the indemnification.”
A letter from Education Minister John O’Dowd to school principals in April, following concerns raised in the Assembly, stated: “In schools where no staff are willing to administer insulin on a voluntary basis, I would encourage you to raise this issue with the relevant officials from your education and library board. In addition to teaching staff, additional-needs classroom assistants have been used effectively in a number of schools to meet the medication needs of those pupils with Type-1 diabetes. In accordance with the Special Education Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005, schools now have a duty placed upon them to integrate children with diabetes within the life of the school and make reasonable adjustments so that pupils are not at a substantial disadvantage to other pupils in the provision of education.”