Disability equality – statutory duties for schools

What is Disability Equality and how does the Equality Act impact on schools?

Under the Equality Act there is a requirement for public sector bodies, including schools, to promote equality for disabled people in every aspect of their work. Schools will need to take an organisational approach to formulating policy and practices, which positively promote disability.

The Equality Act 2010 introduced a single Public Sector Equality Duty (sometimes also referred to as the ‘general duty’) that applies to public bodies, including maintained schools and Academies, and which extends to all protected characteristics – race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. This combined equality duty came into effect in April 2011. It has three main elements. In carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
  • Foster good relations across all characteristics – between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

This duty requires schools to adopt a proactive approach, mainstreaming disability equality into all decisions and activities.

The duty does not just apply to disabled pupils; it applies to any non-educational services schools provide. The duty applies also to parents, members of staff, visitors to the school, local community members and to potential pupils of the future.

Schools can implement the general duty by actively reviewing all their policies, procedures and planned access improvements to remove barriers, with a view, for example, to greater recruitment and retention of disabled staff, greater participation of disabled pupils, disabled parents and community members.

What are the specific duties?

The specific duties require schools:

(a) to publish information to demonstrate how they are complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty, and

(b) to prepare and publish equality objectives.

Schools had until 6 April 2012 to publish their initial information and their first set of objectives. They will then need to update their published information at least annually and to publish objectives at least once every four years. Further advice and guidance is available in the Local Authority’s Schools’ Equality Toolkit.

Accessibility Plans

Schools are still required to have Accessibility Plans showing how they are planning strategically to increase access over time; the same duties as previously existed under the DDA and have been replicated in the Equality Act 2010. The plan must show how the school is:

  • Increasing the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the curriculum
  • Improving the physical environment of schools to enable those with disabilities to take better advantage of education, benefits, facilities and services provided; and
  • Improving the availability of accessible information to those with disabilities.

Schools will need to provide adequate resources for implementing plans and must review them regularly. An accessibility plan may be a freestanding document but may also be published as part of another document such as the School Development Plan, a Single Equality Plan. OFSTED inspections may include a school’s accessibility plan as part of their review.

Remember to include:

  • How the curriculum is differentiated and, at Key Stage 4, what alternative accreditation is offered
  • How information for pupils, parents and the community is available in different formats, using Widgit symbols, Braille, larger font or reduced / simplified language. All schools have access to Communicate in Print software to generate Widgit symbols. If you need advice on symbols and alternative formats, please speak to any member of Integrated Disability Service staff or email sip@widgit.com
  • Plans to improve the signage in the buildings and grounds
  • Arrangements that could be put in place if a disabled parent needed support to attend a school event, e.g. the availability of a signer for a parents’ evening
  • The Equality Act requires “reasonable adjustments” and many adjustments are low cost or no cost; the EHRC advice on Reasonable Adjustments is available in Downloads.
Model Accessibility Plan (msword, 61Kb) (two on page) (doc, 99 Kb)

Requirement to provide Auxiliary Aids

From September 2012 schools are required to provide auxiliary aids (and services) for disabled pupils to overcome any disadvantage experienced in schools. Advice on meeting this requirement can be found on pages 17-20 of the EHRC’s Reasonable Adjustments’ Guidance in the Downloads’ section. Alternatively, you can seek guidance from specialist staff from Integrated Disability Service Teaching & Learning. Remember many aids are relatively straightforward and inexpensive to supply.

Including children with medical needs

In September 2014 a new duty will came into force for governing bodies to ensure arrangements are in place in school to support pupils with medical conditions.

The guidance includes statutory and non-statutory advice under the Children and Families Act 2014. The statutory guidance applies to all maintained schools, academies and free schools. For children with SEN&D, this guidance should be read in conjunction with the new SEND Code of Practice.

The new guidance document reiterates existing good practice and clarifies accountability.

Children and young people with medical conditions are entitled to a full education and have the same rights of admission to school as other children. This means that no child with a medical condition should be denied admission or prevented from taking up a place in school because arrangements for their medical condition have not been made. The governing body must ensure that arrangements are in place to ensure that such children can access and enjoy the same opportunities at school as any other child.

Governing bodies should ensure schools develop a policy for supporting pupils with medical conditions that is reviewed regularly and is readily accessible to parents and school staff. This policy may be a separate policy or may be a sub-section included in the school’s existing SEN & Disability policy.

Although there is no requirement on teaching staff to administer medicines or undertake personal and health care procedures, governing bodies are required to ensure there are arrangements in place, including ensuring sufficient members of support staff are appropriately trained to undertake these roles as part of their core job description.

Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions

Schools will find the following web resource helpful, which includes model policies:

The medical conditions at school website

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Advice for schools on planning inclusive visits

Warwickshire has signed up to the national manifesto for “Learning outside the Classroom” aspiring to:

  • Provide all young people with a wide range of experiences outside the classroom, including extended school activities and one or more residential visits
  • Offer high quality learning experiences
  • Enable schools to manage visits safely and efficiently.

Equality legislation sets out a clear expectation that disabled children and young people should be given the same opportunities to participate as their peers.

The Local Authority would advise all schools and settings to plan their educational visits and learning outside the classroom opportunities on the basis of assuming that ALL pupils will be able to take part.

For some children and young people with disabilities and additional needs the generic risk assessment for the activity will not be sufficient. The LA has devised some planning checklists to help schools consider additional risks for these pupils. The checklists can be found in the Downloads and documents section on this page.

It is important that schools and settings involve parents, the pupil and, if appropriate, specialist support staff, as early as possible in the planning process, particularly when a residential stay is involved.

Under the Equality Act the school must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled pupils are not placed at a substantial disadvantage to their peers. This may include providing additional staffing and accessible transport or ensuring the venue is appropriate to the needs of the pupil concerned. The planning checklists should help highlight any reasonable adjustments needed.

If schools and settings feel there are significant health and safety concerns that they are unable to mitigate, they are advised to speak with staff in the Local Authority:

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For further information and support

All schools should have the following documents:

Further guidance is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Within the Local Authority you can also talk to the Integrated Disability Service.

Warwickshire school staff can access a private area of the Widgit website and download resources developed as part of the Symbol Inclusion Project, as well as other materials developed by the Widgit team. Also on the site is an area for technical support, help sheets and training materials. The news section will be updated regularly with information on training sessions and events.

You can also share your own resources with other Warwickshire staff by uploading them onto the site.

To access the Warwickshire web pages SIP you will need a user name and password. If you encounter difficulties with this please email support@widgit.com.

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Useful Links

Abilitynet gives free information and advice on any aspect of the use of a computer by someone with a disability.

Action on Hearing Loss runs a telephone/teletext helpline and also produces information leaflets and fact sheets.

Arthritis Care campaigns nationally, and also works through a network of local groups and centres offering support, advice and training. Information is available on their website and they represent the best source of information nationally on arthritis, its impact and on ways that colleges and centres may best be able to meet the requirements of learners with arthritis.

Autism West Midlands  Leading charity in the West Midlands for people affected by autism.

British Deaf Association is an organisation of Deaf people that represents the Deaf community.

The British Dyslexia Association offers advice, information and help to families, professionals and dyslexic individuals. It works to raise awareness and understanding of dyslexia, and to effect change. BDA provides a range of useful resources related to dyslexia.

Broadbandsuppliers is a site which collates valuable advice on online resources for disabled users.

Foundation for people with learning disabilities The Foundation provides
information, resources and services and tries to influence government and local authority policies and services so that they better meet the needs people with learning disabilities.

Gov.uk – disabled People This part of the Gov.uk website has been designed to help people find out about their civil rights. It provides information on legislation that exists to help establish employees and employers.

Diabetes UK has a mass of information about diabetes that is of wider interest and would certainly be helpful to schools.

Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) provides information, advice and support to parents and individuals with Downs Syndrome. It also provides information and advice to professionals whose work requires an understanding of the condition.

Dyslexia Action (DA) is a charity that specialises in the assessment and teaching of people with dyslexia and is now the only national dyslexia teaching organisation in the world. It seeks ways to improve the effectiveness of teaching and also focuses on the development of teaching materials.

Epilepsy Action has developed a large website that includes basic information about the condition that will be useful to schools. The site also provides an index of reference material for those who wish to develop a more detailed understanding of epilepsy.

The Equality Human Rights’ Commission (EHRC) is an independent body, established to eliminate the discrimination faced by disabled people and to promote equality of opportunity. The EHRC produces many useful guides and publications such as how to organise disability awareness/equality training and it has a fully accessible helpline.

Mencap is one of the major organisations for people with learning difficulties.

Mencap has produced an education resource pack for those over 16 years old which supports their Essential Skills Award. The resource was developed by Mencap National College and focuses on enabling learners to develop “practical skills for the real world”. For more information on the award, call Tracy Wardle on 01935 403120 or e-mail tracy.wardle@mencap.org.uk.

The Mental Health Foundation The Foundation produces many publications on mental health. It also produces a newsletter, monthly updates and factsheets.

MIND (National Association for Mental Health) is a mental health charity covering England and Wales. Factsheets can be downloaded from their website on issues such as mental health problems and learning disabilities.

National Autistic Society provides an enormous amount of information ranging from introductory information to links to research sites. This is an extremely valuable resource for education professionals.

National Deaf Children’s Society (NCDS) Provides professionals with the latest information on campaigns, government news, NCDS projects and academic and professional research, publications and resources that are available to you.

NASEN (The National Association for Special Educational Needs) is an organisation that provides a forum for those actively involved with exceptional learning needs and/or disabilities and contributes to the formulation and development of policy in the area. NASEN also publishes quarterly the British Journal of Special Education and Support for Learning.

National Autistic Society provides an enormous amount of information ranging from introductory information to links to research sites. This is an extremely valuable resource for education professionals.

NDCS (National Deaf Children’s Society) campaigns to break down barriers faced by deaf children and young people. The website provides a considerable amount of information and research for families, young people and professionals working in the field.

RADAR (Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation) provides information and advice on all aspects of disability and has also compiled a list of recommended Disability Awareness or Equality trainers.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) produces a huge range of resource materials. It runs a telephone information service and supports this with a range of fact sheets. One of the main ways in which LAs, schools and colleges will need to respond to DDA Part 4 is by ensuring that blind and partially sighted students can have access to teaching materials. RNIB has a wealth of experience in this area.

Sense The national (UK) voluntary organization working with and supporting people of all ages who are deafblind or have associated disabilities.

Scope is a national organisation for people with cerebral palsy. It also offers a range of services to professional staff in education and social services including information and advice. The Scope website offers a large quantity of useful information online and also provides a large index of additional publications that colleagues working primarily with disabled students will find very useful. The site is large and it may be helpful to go directly to the online publications catalogue: www.scope.org.uk/action/publications/index.shtml

SHINE is happy to provide information to professionals working with young people with spina bifida and hydrocephalus to enable them to provide improved support. Their website includes a publications section which is extremely helpful for education staff.

Widgit.com Warwickshire school staff can now access a private area of the Widgit website. This area enables Warwickshire staff to access resources developed as part of the Symbol Inclusion Project, as well as other materials developed by the Widgit team. Also on the site is an area for technical support, help sheets and training materials.

To access the Warwickshire web pages you will need a user name and password. Click on the SIP symbol on the Widgit site. Alternatively email: sip@widgit.com

All Warwickshire schools have access to Communicate in Print 2 via a Countywide licence. This website will tell you more about the software available.

World of Inclusion provides training and resources primarily for schools, but also for colleges and local authorities around the issue of inclusion for all students within our education system.

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Disability equality – statutory duties for schools was last updated on October 24, 2017.