I am new to this so would just like to say hello. This may be a long one sorry.
I am after some advice really in regards to my son. He is 13 and was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism when he was six and has had some form of SEND support within school since. He is not statemented. He's not had an easy time of it at school and it's like a never-ending battle but that's a different story.
Background- He has attended a local drama school since he was 10 and it's been amazing for his social skills and confidence. He really has an aptitude for acting and has landed a few roles and had some fantastic experiences. Performed in Paris and on an arena tour. He's won lots of awards at this school and in 2 years out of 3 on the top award. I'm so sorry if this comes across as bragging, I genuinely am not, I just want to give the total picture.
We applied to a selective school that specializes in the performing arts and digital media and offers an acting pathway alongside normal academic criteria. We are in the outer catchment area for this school so they only admit 10% of the intake from this catchment area which equates to 15 pupils. We are, however, literally just a mile from the 'inner catchment area' where they admit 90% of the intake.
During the application process, I fully disclosed my son's autism and additional needs. I was advised that this would be taken into consideration at the aptitude days. We then received confirmation of him attending an aptitude workshop for the day and this would be where the decision to accept pupils was made. There was nothing to prepare or research it. The activities and assessments would be made on that day only.
He made so many friends on that day and thoroughly loved the school, the vibe, it's curriculum and ethos. He truly felt like he fitted in. He felt the aptitude went generally well but he did say he struggled with a couple of the written tests. At the time getting any information out of him was like getting blood out of a stone but as he felt the 'acting' part went well we just waited for the outcome.
We have both been extremely nervous waiting for the decision and on Friday he was told he is not going to be offered a place due to not meeting the aptitude criteria. They also advised they can't give feedback on the tets due to the sheer volume of students so we have no clue as to where he didn't make the criteria.
He is absolutely devastated and heartbroken. Not only did he not get in, but virtually all of his new pals did and to compound things even further 2 friends from the same drama school got it also.
He has confirmed that he wasn't given the extra time of having the written test instructions explained to him in a way he understands. As the school has not given any indication of what consideration was given to him being autistic I can only assume there wasn't any.
He did say that he had no extra support given on the day or allowances for time on the written tests. As he was extremely nervous he was not able to ask for help so just struggled on.
So this brings me on to my questions really. Do you think he has been given an equal opportunity? I am looking to appeal the decision. Not because he didn't meet the aptitude criteria but because he wasn't, or I feel he wasn't given the ability to successfully complete this. Especially when I fully informed the school of his additional needs.
I would be really happy to hear anyone's opinion on this
I would just like to add that he was not assessed academically in any way and this is documented in the school's admissions policy. He was assessed on his chosen pathway of acting.
Did you specifically ask for the adjusted test conditions as a reasonable adjustment? This reminds me of a case I read about recently in which a person on the spectrum who took a test for a law firm was not given an alternative test format that she requested and was not hired because she didn't achieve the required test score. She ended up winning her case. I think it was an Employment Tribunal case, but the same law applies to education.
I think you should make more inquiries as to the specific reason your son was turned down, and be somewhat more aggressive about it. If you have a friend with legal experience, all the better. Be careful not to burn bridges though, in case you still want your son to have a place in the school. Perhaps once they realise that they have broken the law in not providing reasonable adjustments, they will reconsider admitting your son. Of course, you also have to consider that since they didn't even give reasonable adjustments during the admission process, getting them to do so while your son attends the school might be like trying to draw blood from a stone.
Best of luck to you and your son.
I just thought of something else. Does it say anything about people with disabilities in the school's admissions policy? If they didn't follow their own rules and policies, that is further grounds for possible legal action. Please note that I am not a legal professional, but I have recently had reason to thoroughly acquaint myself with the Equality Act.
Hi, Dragon thank you for your responses.
No, I didn't ask for adjusted test conditions. There were no details at all given in regards to the aptitude day other than there is nothing that can be prepared for. As I had detailed my son's disability on the application form I just assumed that this would be considered.
After literally trawling through the admissions policy, independent detailed appeals documents and the school website, SENDCo documents, I genuinely believe that they have not adhered to the equalities act. In the SEND information, it refers to pupils that have already passed the aptitude assessment and support that is offered but I have not found any evidence of what support is given during this assessment. His decline letter states that they cannot offer feedback but if we feel he's been adversely affected, they 'will look into that'.
Here is an extract from the policy. In regards to disability, I have not seen anything other than if a student has a statement.
The assessment must be clear, fair and objective, and must only assess the student’s aptitude and no other factors. No student will be assessed for academic ability although knowledge of the specialism, as part of the aptitude process, may be sought.
The point here that I am challenging is was it fair? Did he have the same equal opportunity at the assessment despite his needs? Has he been discriminated against?
I agree though in that they have been so vague in why he was declined. My son is so heartbroken in this decision. He genuinely shows all the objectives for the pathway he's chosen and I have numerous evidence to back this up in an appeal. Why is it always a battle and struggle?
My thoughts exactly of what this means if he did actually get in!
Obviously you need the information they are withholding in order to determine whether there has been discrimination. The conditions of the test should have been discussed with you and/or your son beforehand and one of both of you should have been given the opportunity to give input as to your son's specific needs. No excuse can be made about the "sheer volume of students". That's not how the Equality Act works. Given that nothing was discussed beforehand regarding the test, I would say that there was an obvious failure to provide reasonable adjustments.
Whether there was discrimination or not is not as clear and more difficult to prove. If your son is just as knowledgeable and skilled in the performing arts as his friends (which it seems to me that he is, based on e.g. the awards he has earned), and they got in and he didn't, that is a very strong indicator of direct discrimination and it might not even be necessary to know their claimed reasons for rejecting him.
I would recommend that you consult with citizen's advice and the Disability Law Service and see what they say.
Thank you, you've been really helpful