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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Dyslexia boy's admissions fight
Bacons College
Bacons College: Popular and over-subscribed
A boy with dyslexia is seeking High Court permission to challenge a school's refusal to admit him, claiming it breaches a new anti-bias law which took effect this week.

The 11-year-old boy - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was refused a place at the Bacons City Technology College in Southwark, south London.

The boy's solicitor said his dyslexia was so severe he needed his own helper in lessons.

Bacons' says its decision had nothing to do with this, but had been made because the boy did not match its special admissions criteria.

City technology colleges (CTCs) say their special status puts them outside the requirements of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act, which came into effect this week.

Independent schools

CTCs are an odd category of school.

They are independent but charge no fees, and have their ongoing costs paid by the Department for Education.

Started by the former Conservative government, 15 of them were set up.

Bacons is one of the six which opened in 1991, with the Church of England as one of its main sponsors.

Admissions

Its published admissions rules say that it would like to be able to admit all applicants but has only 180 places. It is over-subscribed.

"This means that choices have to be made and some people will be disappointed."

When making these choices the college says it must, by law:

  • admit children who will benefit most from the particular type of education on offer in a City Technology College
  • admit children from a wide range of abilities
  • only accept children from within its catchment area.
The requirement to take a range of abilities means it tests children then takes some from each ability band - with a key factor being their "aptitude" for its technology specialism.

New law

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination Act says school and university admissions procedures must not discriminate against disabled students seeking to enrol.

The boy's solicitor, Jack Rabinowicz, said: "I think the problem this case illustrates is that if children are properly to be included in schools and if CTCs are state schools in all but name, can they be allowed to discriminate against children with learning difficulties?"

"I can see this going upwards through the appeal system but the priority is to get this child into school, rather than set a legal precedent."

But the chairman of the CTC principals' forum, Frank Green, said they were outside the main state school system.

"If a parent is able to get round the admissions criteria when they are oversubscribed, there is a danger a specialist school will end up as a special school," he said.

"You could end up with 60% of pupils having special needs."

See also:

01 Sep 02 | Education
28 Aug 02 | Education
22 Jun 01 | Mike Baker
21 Jun 02 | Education
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