Head teachers' leaders have previously warned that school phobia could be used as a 'classic excuse' for not attending lessons.And now it’s something else, too; an opportunity to use the disability legislation as a whip to drive the school to drop any action they may have been thinking about taking against persistent truants.
'You have to get to the root of the pupils' problem - it may be their relationship with teachers, bullying or just that they haven't settled in,' said David Hart, former general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.
'Transferring the child to another school could be the solution. But school phobia is just an excuse for failure to attend.'
Education chiefs who prosecuted a teenager's parents for allowing him to play truant have been forced to apologise after the boy claimed he had 'school phobia'.We aren’t told what arrangements were made by the boy’s parents to ensure that he was educated in spite of his claimed 'disability'. Were home lessons considered or requested?
The youngster missed months of lessons after becoming anxious about returning to his Suffolk secondary school following a viral illness.
Whatever the situation, the school decided it could take no more, and instituted procedures (driven, of course, by targets for attendance):
The teenager's failure to regularly attend prompted his school in conjunction with Suffolk County Council to take his parents to court for condoning truancy.Which seems to have opened up a can of worms. What’s to stop the next truant from getting a diagnosis of ‘school phobia’ and ensuring that this is used as a shield against further action?
They could have been landed with a jail term or £2,500 fine.
But magistrates dismissed the case and now a tribunal has ruled the council discriminated against the boy in launching the prosecution.
But the council today said it was 'disappointed' by the ruling and may appeal.I can’t blame them.
Particularly in light of the extraordinary and sinister demands made on them by the tribunal:
It has been ordered to write to each of the parents and the boy apologising 'unreservedly' for its treatment of him.How very Stalinist…
And that’s not all:
In addition to letters of apology, the council has been ordered to send key officials for training on the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.Is it just me, or does anyone else get a cold feeling down the spine at this kind of public humiliation of those deemed to have sinned before the altar of ‘disability’..?
The parents should invited to observe this training, the tribunal said.