Bournemouth and Poole College and the Wessex Youth Orchestra: uncomfortable evidence (2: very insensitive treatment of disabled pupil & family)

(Post made at 1150 GMT on 10 Nov 2018 in a personal capacity.  Please see here for important background and disclosure of interests). This is a follow up to this post.

This is just part of the evidence that I presented to the College and the “Independent Investigator” during my formal complaint of May 2017.  Evidence which the investigator (from View HR Ltd) appears to have completely ignored: the report dismissing the complaint stated that “no witnesses have been willing to step forward to provide any evidence in support of his allegations”, and in particular with regard to this matter “There is no evidence of [CWYM] treating a child with a disability insensitively or discriminatorily”. (The investigator closed the investigation before interviewing the parents or the child, despite my having provided their contact details, with their permission, as with other witnesses.)

What the College says it does, and what it actually did

Section 6 of the College Equality policy at the time included:

“Our duty is protection from discrimination or harassment on the basis of eight characteristics: age, race, gender, gender identity, religion / belief, sexuality and disability, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy, maternity and paternity. Disability covers physical and sensory impairment, learning disability and difficulty, mental health and neuro-diverse conditions [such as autism, dyspraxia etc.]. “

The UK government website states (at https://www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person/education-rights):

“It’s against the law for a school or other education provider to treat disabled students unfavourably.  This includes direct discrimination, for example refusing admission to a student because of disability”.

In my opinion, the WYO email of 20 Sep 2016 to the parents of a pupil with [disability 1] discriminated against that pupil by stating as a requirement to join the WYO that the pupil strengthen their finger joints. By saying that the pupil “has a tendency to let [her/his] fingers collapse on the strings” the implication was that this was under the pupil’s control, whereas this was not the case due to [disability 1].

The pupil also has [disability 2] so the lack of interest shown in the programme of another orchestra that the pupil was proudly trying to show (the pupil having played in a concert with that programme) would have been puzzling and possibly distressing.

The parents were devastated to receive that email following an audition, in which, despite one parent having reminded the Centre of their child’s disability, the WYO made comments which did not acknowledge the disability, criticised an aspect of the child’s playing that was an inevitable consequence of the disability, and implied that the child would need to overcome that physical aspect before being able to join the WYO.

There was absolutely no attempt to follow the College’s policy with regard to students with disabilities, which is to offer support to enable them to take part in activities.  On the contrary, the email from the WYO gave the impression to the parents that their child’s disability was an insuperable barrier to ever being able to join the WYO.  (This child had previously successfully played in another youth orchestra, and the WYO had been made aware of this.)

A fellow SWYM (Society for Wessex Young Musicians) Committee member stated in an email to me on 9 Oct 2016 with regard to the WYO’s rejection of this pupil:

“Your email was very interesting to read and one that I fully understand and agree with. I feel very sorry for [pupil] and the [parents] and I do feel that other children have been allowed in to sit in and participate when they have not quite reached the required standard. To have the availability of the music to practice at home etc would also help children that may not have quite reached the standard …. certainly someone like [pupil] would have benefited from this (under the Equality Act etc if the WYO had been a professional orchestra!)”.

The CWYM is a College course and the College IS subject to the Equality Act. As I put in my email to [Director at College responsible for the WYO], it should have been very easy to provide any necessary support to allow this child to participate in the WYO.

In my opinion, the WYO’s actions are a shameful stain on the College’s disability record.  [Director at College] and the College should not have had to wait for me or the child’s parents to make a formal complaint about this case: the College had sufficient evidence available to it from the WYO email of 20 Sep 2016 to the parents, and my comments in my email to [Director at College] of 5 Feb 2017 about the WYO’s email.

They had a duty of care to the child and the parents yet, despite knowing from my email of 5 February that the WYO’s actions had caused significant upset to both child and parents, chose to do nothing.

4 thoughts on “Bournemouth and Poole College and the Wessex Youth Orchestra: uncomfortable evidence (2: very insensitive treatment of disabled pupil & family)

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