College accused of disability discrimination

Josh Waywell with mum Liz
Josh Waywell with mum Liz

Angry relatives of a disabled Wigan youngster are accusing his former sixth form college of discrimination.

Josh Waywell featured in the Observer earlier this year after defying the odds to land a place at university, despite suffering from the incurable and life-limiting condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

But the smiles at the time hid a disappointment with Runshaw College in Leyland where the 19-year-old had studied to gain his distinction-star distinction in film and media studies.

And this week the Appley Bridge family broke their silence over issues that have been simmering for months after their complaint about how Josh was treated when he suffered a seizure were met with a report clearing Runshaw of blame.

His mum Liz said: “In January I informed Runshaw, as Josh was returning for the beginning of term, that he had had an ‘episode’ at home over the Christmas break while in his wheelchair.

“I was told Josh was a ‘health and safety risk’ and was not allowed to be in college. I had to take him home in front of all his peers. We were both in a state of shock and obviously very upset.

“We were told Josh could work from home, but was not allowed to attend lessons, which meant he was not ‘fully accessing the curriculum’ as he was entitled. He missed lessons, group discussions and as importantly, couldn’t see his friends and peers and be part of college life.

“The impact of this treatment of Josh was massive. After the initial shock, Josh was very angry. He couldn’t see his friends, was worried he wouldn’t be able to complete his course, get his grades and be able to go to university.

“Basically all his dreams were shattered and he thought his life was over. In those first few days when Josh said he was suicidal and might as well give up, we, as parents were absolutely devastated.

“Josh had faced so many challenges and worked so hard. It was disgusting, that in this day and age, an educational institution, that have responsibility for so many young people, could be able to get away with discriminating against a disabled student.

“Despite weeks of meetings, letters from health professionals, doctors and consultants plus advice and training from hospital when the college was told there was no reason why he shouldn’t be in and what to do if Josh did have a seizure, they still refused to let him back.

“It was only after eight weeks, when it was agreed that Josh’s personal assistant at home, would attend college with him, that he was finally allowed back.”

The Waywells lodged a discrimination complaint after he left Runshaw in July and the other day got the reply which said its internal inquiry had concluded that correct procedures had been properly observed.

Josh is now at the Uclan reading film and media.

A spokesperson for Runshaw College said: “It would be entirely inappropriate for the college to comment on any individual cases. However, the college prides itself on providing outstanding individual care and support for its students.

“In November 2013 student support at Runshaw College was described by Ofsted as being ‘in a different league’ and it has been strengthened even further since that time.

“We were delighted to see record high levels of learner satisfaction recorded in this summer’s annual learners’ survey for all questions including student support.”