Northern Ireland

Co Down nursery school apologises to former pupil and parents as disability discrimination case settled

Amelie Cummins with her parents Michelle and Alan from Co Down. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission
Amelie Cummins with her parents Michelle and Alan from Co Down. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission Amelie Cummins with her parents Michelle and Alan from Co Down. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission

A CO Down nursery school has apologised after accepting that a girl with special needs was treated less favourably due to her disability.

The parents of Amelie Cummins, who was born with Down's Syndrome, took a disability discrimination case on behalf of their daughter against Trinity Nursery School in Bangor.

Amelie has a statement of special educational needs which provided for her to attend mainstream nursery school with 22.5 hours of classroom support each week.

She started Trinity Nursery School in September 2020, but her family say they were told Amelie had to start school 15 minutes later each day than all the other children in her class, even though she had a dedicated classroom assistant.

Amelie’s parents alleged the school also wanted their daughter to finish 15 minutes earlier too, but they refused to accept this. Her parents removed her from the nursery school in December 2020.

Amelie's mother Michelle said it "was a very difficult time".

"I still can’t believe that the school made our daughter miss 15 minutes of her education every day because of her disability," she said.

"We felt we had no option but to remove her."

Amelie Cummins. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission
Amelie Cummins. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission Amelie Cummins. Picture by Kirth Ferris/Pacemaker/Equality Commission

The family lodged a case with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and were supported by the Equality Commission.

In settling the case, Trinity Nursery accepted they treated Amelie less favourably as a result of her disability and that they failed to make reasonable adjustments for her.

The school has also apologised to Amelie and her parents for any upset caused.

"Amelie has since had a very positive experience in another nursery school and is currently thriving in primary school," added Michelle.

"We hope that by challenging this behaviour no other disabled child would face a similar situation."

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said "it is unacceptable that any pupil would be treated less favourably because of their disability".

"Amelie's parents wanted her to have the same educational experience as all the other children but felt that they were met with barriers because of her disability," she said.

"All children must be provided with opportunities to flourish at school, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

"We welcome, as part of the settlement terms, Trinity Nursery School's agreement to work with the commission in respect of its duties under the disability discrimination legislation and good practice in education."