Special-needs pupil barred from Israel trip

By Jessica Elgot, February 2, 2012

The father of a 14-year-old King Solomon High School pupil with moderate learning disabilities is "bitterly disappointed" that she is not being allowed to join the Redbridge school's Israel trip.

But King Solomon teachers maintain the girl is unsuited to a mainstream school and have "health and safety" concerns about her going on the Israel tour in May of next year.

Her father, who asked to remain anonymous, said the family had considered special schools for his daughter, "but she would have been top of the class and would not be stretched. I wanted her to have a Jewish education and we were pleased with King Solomon.

"In the last few weeks, we have received very positive feedback from her support team. We had a very interesting discussion with the careers adviser recently and everything seemed to be in place. Now the school are suggesting she should not even be in a mainstream school."

He said he and his wife, who are in the process of divorcing, did not want to cause the girl additional distress by moving schools.

They have already planned for her to leave King Solomon to do a drama course when she turns 16.

The father pointed out that he had offered to pay for his eldest son to accompany her on the trip.

"She has told me how much she really wants to go to Israel. I believe she could cope well with the trip - she has no behavioural issues. Her mother wrote to the school a few weeks ago and she suggested that our eldest son - who has been to Israel twice with BBYO - could go as a helper and to be there for her. To imply that she could not understand simple instructions regarding drinking water at the correct times is totally unfair."

In a letter to the father, assistant head Daniel Soibelmann wrote that "much consideration" had been given to "how we could best include her on the Israel trip." He went on: "The whole Israel trip discussion should not eclipse the real matter at hand - that she continues to fail at KSHS despite the significant efforts we continue to make."

King Solomon head-teacher Spencer Lewis cited special circumstances behind the decision, which were inappropriate for him to comment on.

"I can, however, say that we have a full policy of inclusion within our SEN department which Ofsted has recently judged as outstanding. Our work in SEN has been used as an exemplar of good practice and students are fully included in all residential and non-residential activities wherever possible.

"Two years ago, a student with Down's Syndrome went on the Israel trip -- as have most of our students with moderate learning difficulties."

Last updated: 3:07pm, February 2 2012