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Marshland High School pupil's prom dreams in tatters

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A family has accused a secondary school of discrimination and failing to support their autistic daughter in a row over prom.

Steve Ross says his 15-year-old daughter Renée, who has been banned from attending the Year 11 leavers' prom at Marshland High School at West Walton, because of her behaviour over the past academic year. He claims she is one of 15 pupils that have been told they can't attend the event.

But he has accused the school of failing to give the support she needed due to her being diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder).

Renée Ross has been banned from attending her school prom but her parents say they were not told and have spent over £500 on items including a dream dress. (57569712)
Renée Ross has been banned from attending her school prom but her parents say they were not told and have spent over £500 on items including a dream dress. (57569712)

Mr Ross said the school should have provided one to one support for Renée and said the behaviour, which led to her being excluded from prom and also from attending the leavers assembly, was down to her frustration with the school's lack of help.

He admitted that Renée had been "gobby" in class and had also walked out of lessons, as well as leaving the school site, but said at no point had the school informed him that she had been banned from attending prom.

As a result he said the family had forked out over £500 for prom items including car hire, a dress and deposits for hair and make-up.

But the school has hit back and said all pupils and parents were aware of Marshland's policy of excluding students from attending prom if they failed to meet expectations in regards to behaviour, attendance, punctuality and attitude to learning.

However, Mr Ross said that despite those rules, the school had not notified him of the decision to ban his daughter from prom.

And he said the only contact the family had received was a couple of voicemails, which did not mention the prom, but were about Renée's footwear.

He says he is now preparing a formal complaint about the school and its headteacher, Craig Jansen, which he is planning to send to Marshland's board of governors and also the West Norfolk Academy Trust, which runs the school.

He claimed an impromptu meeting to discuss the issue with Mr Jansen on Thursday had failed to resolve the problem and had left Mr Ross angry at the attitude of the school and its refusal to put its case in writing to him.

"I asked Mr Jansen to put everything in writing, but he has refused to do that. We have had no communication from the school over Renée being banned from attending prom and no one had spoken to her about it. If they had then she would have told us and not let us go ahead with buying a dress and hiring a car - she's not stupid," said Mr Ross.

He said being allowed to attend prom would enable Renée to draw a line under her school years and let her move on to college having celebrated the end of school with her friends.

But a spokesperson for Marshland High has refuted Mr Ross's claims and said meetings to discuss support for Renée had been held throughout the school year with her parents.

The spokesperson said: "Attendance to the school prom is not an entitlement but by invitation from the school. All parents were advised in writing in February, May and again in June that we reserved the right to withdraw a student’s invitation to the prom if they failed to meet our expectations in regard to behaviour, attendance, punctuality and attitude to learning. All students were regularly reminded about this possibility.

"The school met with her parents throughout the academic year to discuss her needs, support from the school and her behaviour linked to her ASD as well as concerns about her chosen behaviour. At these meetings her parents were advised about the consequences that may follow if she fails to meet our expectations.

"The school provided her with extensive support and adjustments within her curriculum whilst she was at our school. The school also made repeated attempts to contact her parents regarding concerns about her behaviour before the decision to withdraw her prom invitation was taken. Her parents failed to get back to the school."

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