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School could face legal action after pupil is excluded for failing to wear face mask

Camilla Turner
·3-min read
Official guidance states that pupils should not be sent home over failing to wear a facemask
Official guidance states that pupils should not be sent home over failing to wear a facemask

A secondary school may face legal action after a pupil with learning difficulties was excluded for failing to wear a face mask.

Brockhill Arts Performing Arts College, in Kent, could be accused by lawyers of failing in its duties under the Equality Act after it suspended a student who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The pupil has an "education, health and care plan" which means he has been officially assessed by the local authority and deemed to have special education needs and is legally entitled to extra support.

Official guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) states that pupils should not be sent home over failing to wear a face mask.

Victoria Greenwood, the pupil's mother, said she is now in discussions with lawyers about bringing a claim against the school for failing in its duty to make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities.

"I got a call from a teacher saying come and pick your child up. I was absolutely shocked, " she told The Telegraph.

"My son was having trouble wearing the face mask. He was constantly fiddling with it and said he couldn't breathe properly. He couldn't cope with it - that is why there are exemptions. They gave him a visor to wear instead but it pinched his nose."

Ms Greenwood, a 40-year-old trainee councillor, claimed that she was told if she brought her son back to school without a face covering after his initial 1.5 day exclusion period, he would be excluded again until he wears one.

Explaining why she has now kept him off school for over a week, she said: "I can't send him back if he will just get excluded again, it will go on his record and will impact on his future."

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of the parent campaign group Us For Them, said the organisation has received hundreds of reports from parents about "overzealous" schools going above and beyond what is required in official guidance.

"The Department for Education churn out this guidance and no one checks about how it is implemented," she said. "Schools are trusted to make the decisions and no one is policing it."   Ofsted inspectors normally hold schools to account by inspecting them on issues such as children's welfare as management.

However, Ofsted says it is not responsible for the implementation of the Government's coronavirus guidance adding that it has "no scope" to "interpret or enforce this guidance".

Sonette Schwartz, the principal Brockhill Arts Performing Arts College, wrote to parents before the start of term to say that staff and pupils will be "required" to wear face coverings, adding that pupils will be refused a seat on the school bus without one. The school declined to respond to requests for comment.

A DfE spokesperson said:  “We are clear pupils should not be sent home for not wearing a face covering and they should be avoided in the classroom due the negative impact on teaching.

"This is especially true when teaching children with additional needs who may rely on facial expression to communicate.

 “Face coverings are only required for communal spaces in a school in areas of the country where restrictions are in place, although headteachers in other parts of the country have discretion to require this."