Boris Johnson’s former prep school, Ashdown House in Forest Row, has been forced to apologise to a family and reinstate a pupil for ‘unlawful discriminatory exclusion’.
The pupil, who was granted anonymity and was referred to as ‘Bobby’, must be re-admitted, given extra tuition and a full apology.
The tribunal heard ‘Bobby’ was adopted and has a diagnosis of ADHD, sensory processing, emotional and social difficulties arising from trauma in early childhood and the womb.
The judgement said he was unlawfully excluded for ‘aggressive and targeted’ behaviour towards a Year 5 pupil including ‘placing him in a headlock, pushing him in the haha, chasing him in the changing room’ – which resulted in the boy slipping and receiving a head injury.
According to the judgement, Bobby had been involved in ‘37 incidents of unprovoked aggression since his arrival at the school’.
The parents, who adopted Bobby at 13 months, said the school know of his ADHD diagnosis and sensory processing difficulties.
“We found that excluding Bobby permanently amounts to unfavourable treatment under the Equality Act,” the judgement said.
The family had earlier won a first tier tribunal against the school that the exclusion of their child for his behaviour was discriminatory.
The school lost its appeal at an upper tribunal after having the order to readmit, provide tuition and apologise was not enforceable in independent schools, rejected.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded the case, said: “This shows that equality is a must – not a ‘nice to have’. Every school must comply with the law. Our education system needs to support all children to reach their potential, regardless of background, health and ability, and we must not tolerate discrimination against disabled pupils.”
The parents said: “Children living with disabilities are often subjected to many injustices in their short lives; being unlawfully excluded from school should not be another one. We hope this gives confidence to other parents of children with special educational needs that they do not have to stand by and watch their families be discriminated against.”
Hilary Phillips, headmistress at Ashdown House, said the school ‘aims to meet the educational needs of all of its pupils with their happiness, safety and wellbeing at the heart of all we do’. She added: “Since the tribunal’s decision the school has been in contact with the parents to support them fully in their plans for their child’s future education.”