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Upper Tribunal upholds order requiring prep school to reinstate unlawfully excluded pupil

The First-tier Tribunal has jurisdiction to make an order compelling an independent prep school to reinstate a pupil that it had unlawfully excluded, the Upper Tribunal has ruled.

The school, Ashdown House, had appealed the FTT ruling that the boy, known as ‘Bobby’, should be readmitted. Bobby has ADHD and sensory processing difficulties, and was excluded for aggressive behaviour.

In the Upper Tribunal Judge Mark West said the school’s various grounds of challenge had failed. The judge said:

  • The claim of disability discrimination against the proprietor of the school under s.15 of the Equality Act 2010 (discrimination arising from disability) had succeeded.
  • The proprietor of the school must withdraw the exclusion and reinstate Bobby with immediate effect with support and extra tuition for lost learning.
  • The proprietor of the school must write a letter of apology to Bobby to be sent within 14 days of the date of the decision.

The school had sought to claim that the FTT’s order to readmit, provide tuition and apologise was not enforceable in relation to independent schools.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded the case, said: “This case shows very clearly 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 their background, health and ability, and we must not tolerate discrimination against disabled pupils. We wish the family every success and we are delighted that Ashdown House will be working to support this child through their education.”

The EHRC added: “As an Upper Tribunal decision, this case sets a precedent and confirms the wide powers available to the First Tier Tribunal to make orders under the Equality Act.”

Claire Darwin of Matrix Chambers appeared for the parents.

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