Northern Ireland Nursery Settles in Discrimination Case Over Child with Downs Syndrome

Posted on: 4 mins read
Last updated:
Sarah Woosey Profile Picture
Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Share Article:

It was reported in February 2023 that two parents in Northern Ireland recently took their daughter’s former nursery to court after claiming that they had discriminated against her.

The nursery admitted that the girl, who has Downs Syndrome, was treated less favourably than other children and that they failed to make any reasonable adjustments for her.

Amelie Cummins started at Trinity Nursery School, Bangor, in County Down, Northern Ireland in September 2020. Amelie has Downs Syndrome and had a statement of special educational needs which gave her provision to attend the mainstream nursery school with 22 and a half hours of classroom support each week.

Despite this support being in place her parents, Michelle and Alan Cummins, were told that Amelie, who is now 5 years old, would have to start her day at the nursery 15 minutes later than all of the other children at Trinity Nursery School, even though she had a dedicated classroom assistant. The nursery also wanted Amelie to finish the nursery day 15 minutes earlier than all of the other children. This would have led to her having less time at nursery, affecting the amount of education and care she was getting. Due to this,  her parents felt this was unfair and refused to accept it. Amelie’s mother, Michelle, also said that the nursery didn't allow her, as a parent, to come into the nursery to be part of the transition for her daughter starting at the nursery.

Mrs Cummins said that when they raised this and a number of other discriminatory issues with the nursery, they unfortunately became quite hostile. This was far from the positive start that Mr and Mrs Cummins had  wanted for their daughter. They then felt that they unfortunately had no option but to take Amelie out of the nursery just three months later in December 2020.

TrustpilotStarsWe're ratedExcellent

Amelie’s Parents Brought a Discrimination Claim Against The Nursery

Following this, Amelie’s parents then brought a claim against the nursery for disability discrimination. The claim  was lodged with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal with the support of the Equality Commission. This is more commonly referred to as a SEND Tribunal.

Given that this case took place in Northern Ireland, we can’t comment on the procedure there as it will differ slightly to the process we have in England. However, in England, we know that the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal determine claims of disability discrimination against schools. Claims must be brought within a maximum of 6 months from the act of discrimination. The Tribunal has a wide range of powers but cannot award monetary compensation.  Amelie’s mother and father spoke of their motivations for the claim:

“We had to drive it forward, because it’s not acceptable. If we’d have done nothing about it, we’d have been as bad as [the nursery]. We knew in our hearts it was the right thing to do and that we should stick with it because we don’t want it to happen to any other child.”

The nursery eventually admitted it treated Amelie less favourably due to her special educational needs and failed to make reasonable adjustments for her.

A spokesperson for Trinity Nursery School said:

"Whilst we cannot comment on individual pupils, as a school we will take on board all learning from the case and are firmly committed to the principle of equality of opportunity for all disabled pupils”.

The Outcome for Amelie, her Parents and the Nursery

Mr and Mrs Cummins said that the two-year tribunal process was definitely worthwhile, even though it was lengthy and stressful at times. Amelie’s mother has said that while the nursery’s apology will never be enough, she hopes that their actions mean this won’t happen to any other child at the nursery.

Mary Kitson, the senior legal officer for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said it is unacceptable that any child should be treated less favourably because of their disability in education, stating:

"All children must be provided with opportunities to flourish at school, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.”

Amelie has since had a positive experience in another nursery school and is currently thriving in primary school.

Trinity Nursery School has said that they will “work with the Equality Commission in ensuring that all of their policies, practices and procedures conform in all respects with national equality legislation in relation to Disability Discrimination in education, as well as best practice”.

How Our Lawyers Can Help if Your Child is Experiencing Discrimination

Our expert Education Lawyers can only assist with cases concerning disability discrimination in England and Wales but the points raised from Amelie’s case remain the same.

Our expert team of Education Solicitors are on hand to listen to your concerns and advise you of the various different courses of action available to you. WYou can contact our friendly and helpful team on 0808 239 9764 or by requesting a call back.

Children like Amelie who have special educational needs and/or disabilities are entitled to a to be treated fairly and to have their needs met whether this is in a nursery, school or college. They should not experience less favourable treatment simply for reasons relating to a disability. At Simpson Millar, we’re here to help with that.


BBC News. (2023, November 22). [Down's syndrome discrimination: Bangor nursery apologises to pupil]. Retrieved from (Accessed December 13, 2023).

Simpson Millar Solicitors. (n.d.). School Exclusion Appeals. Retrieved from (Accessed December 13, 2023).

Sarah Woosey Profile Picture

Sarah Woosey

Interim Head of Education Law

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Sarah re-joined Simpson Millar in 2018 having previously trained at the firm before spending a number of years working for a different national firm. She has a number of years’ experience in a range of Education Law and Social Care issues and has focused particularly on getting suitable education and/or services for children and young adults with a wide range of Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities.

Get in touch, today!

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 9764

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose