When I was at primary school in Dunbartonshire, a commorimary 7 excursion was a week at the outdoor centre at Gairlochhead. Even though I was an unsporty kid who did his best to avoid PE, I went (in the week that Prince Charles almost died under an avalanche) and looking forward to and subsequently loved it: as did my classmates. Children being vindictive, unforgiving bastards at times, I dread to think what we would have done to any kid who was seen to have scuppered the excursion.
This is an experience which I fear Inverness mother, Donna Williamson has brought on her daughter, who suffers from severe muscular dystrophy, but has been encouraged to attend Crown Primary with able-bodied children. All is well and good: although my cousin chose not to send her son with pronounced autism to this particular school, Williamson’s daughter has, for the most part, appeared to have integrated.
Crown Primary, like many in the region, was intending to arrange a five day excursion to the Craggan Outdoor Centre for its two P7 classes of some 70 pupils. Williamson, reasonably enough it has to be said, objected on the grounds that her daughter would be excluded from the core activities. The School and Highland Council responded by cancelling both class excursions, citing Disability Discrimination legislation.
An excursion to visit Glasgow art galleries and museums has also been cancelled, but I am unclear if this were an offered alternative or separate. Also, there are two other disabled children in P7, but their parents appear not to be complained.
On hearing this, my first thought was that Williamson was being obstructive and entirely unsympathetic to the great majority of children who would have been able to function, and were doubtless looking forward to the excursion. For any child to have to sit on the sidelines whilst their friends were enjoying themselves would be galling, but her daughter cannot be under any illusion that her participation in the wider world is restricted.
My next thought was that Crown Primary had had seven years, since Williamson’s daughter enrolled, to predict this eventuality and make provisions before engaging in helpless chicken mode: maybe by sourcing a care-assistant and outdoor activities which did not require strenuous physical activity.
Then I returned to my first thought. Williamson presumably also has been aware of the regular Craggan excursion for some years, yet appears not to have brought her objections to the fore until the current school year, after the School could reasonably have initiated alternative and considered plans. Her move, and the unyielding accommodation offered, has dismayed other pupils, some of whose parents have been given leave to organize an independent trip (i.e. not expected state authorities to micro-manage their lives).
The Inverness Courier writes:
Donna Williamson, of Aultnaskiach Avenue, spoke out yesterday after news of the cancellation of the annual trip sparked anger among a small group of parents.
Compared to anger from one parent?
She told The Inverness Courier the issue, which surfaced last Wednesday, had ruined the family’s Christmas and some comments made on the newspaper’s website by readers have caused further distress.
If Williamson and her family have been harassed in the street or at their home, this is unacceptable, but part of me suspects this is related to an individual’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for his/her actions which is commonly associated with an assumption from the same individual that they should be accommodated to the nth degree. This decision has disappointed many dozens of children, none of whom had any part in its cause: note, this is distinct from our particular lots in life, such as my atopic eczema and asthma which restricted my enjoyment as a child; or Williamson’s daughter’s muscular dystrophy.
Mrs Williamson stressed: “My view is that the school trip was never cancelled – only the venue or destination was changed. The details of the trip are still being worked on and I have e-mails to that effect.”
No, it has been cancelled. Children who thought of the venue and destination *being* the excursion are not as brimming with sang froid as adults.
“It is disgusting in this day in age that they are not considering the needs of another child,” she said, explaining that she wants her daughter to live a full and inclusive life regardless of her illness.
Steady on, sister! The School’s actions could be ill-conceived and short-sighted, but considering your daughter has been accommodated for the past seven years, “disgusting” a bit strong.
I would not even use this descriptor for a selfish individualism which has grown up around application of the Human Rights Act and various anti-discrimination policies. I would merely quote Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist (hat tip, Big Rab):
If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot! If that’s the eye of the law, then the law is a bachelor. And the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience.