Disability in Schools

Disability in Schools March 2013

Disability in Schools March 2013 Flyer, click for PDF.

On the 1st September 2012 a little heralded change under the Equality Act 2010 took place – all schools became subject to the duty to provide auxillary aids and services to disabled pupils. The EHRC has provided technical guidance on this

Although in practice many disabled children will have Special Educational Needs (SEN) identified and as a consequence may be receiving support, this will not be true of all children. Just because a child has SEN or has a statement does not take away a school’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for them. In practice many children who have a statement of SEN will receive all the support they need through the framework and there will be nothing more that the school has to do. However some disabled pupils may not have SEN and some who have will need additional reasonable adjustments.

The guidance from the EHRC sets out factors to take into account in considering what is a reasonable adjustment:

  • the extent to which support will be provided to the disabled pupil under the SEN framework
  • the resources of the school and the availability of financial or other assistance
  • the financial and other costs of making the adjustment
  • the extent to which taking any particular step would be effective in overcoming the substantial disadvantage suffered by a disabled pupil
  • the practicability of the adjustment
  • the effect of the disability on the individual
  • health and safety requirements
  • the need to maintain academic, musical, sporting and other standards
  • the interests of other pupils and prospective pupils

Some useful case studies are referred to:
A disabled pupil with ME finds moving around a large three storey secondary school very tiring and despite the school adjusting the timetable and loaction of classes to minimise the amount she has to move she is still too exhausted to complete the school day. The school then makes further adjustments of having a ‘buddy’ to carry her books for her, a dictaphone to record those lessons that she misses and a policy that she will not be penalised for arriving at lessons late. These adjustments enable her to attend more lessons and to be less disadvantaged when she does miss lessons.

 

An infant school disabled pupil with ADHD receives some individual teaching assistant support through the SEN framework. He is diagnosed with severe asthma and needs assistance with his nebuliser. Although this is not a special educational need, his asthma is likely to be a disability for the purposes of the Act and so a failure to provide a reasonable adjustment will place him at a substantial disadvantage. The school trains up his teaching assistant and she provides him with the assistance he needs.

New guidance for schools on the public sector equality duty was also published on the EHRC website

Schools who are interested in their responsibilities under the Equality Act can contact us to to book a place on our next training session in conjunction with Cheshire Development Education Centre on the 20th March.

 

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Will volunteers be able to sue for discrimination?

Although the issue of whether volunteers can be employees for employment law purposes is one that has been looked at many times before, we now have the continuing case of X v Mid Sussex CAB who is alleging that the Framework Employment Equality Directive applies to volunteers and that its provisions have direct effect in domestic (UK) law. This would essentially mean that volunteers would be protected by anti discrimination legislation. The case was heard in the UK Supreme Court at the end of October and we are now awaiting the judgment, which could have massive repercussions on voluntary sector organisations across the country.  The facts of the case were that the claimant was a volunteer adviser at the CAB. When she told her manager that she was HIV positive she alleges that she was told she could no longer work at the CAB as this was considered a risk to staff. She wanted to claim disability discrimination, but the employment tribunal held that volunteering was not within the scope of employment, because it did not cover voluntary work. The Supreme Court has a policy choice to make: require those who rely on volunteers to be liable to defend themselves against claims of discrimination…or will it think that it cannot be right that there should be no legal remedy for a volunteer who was badly treated by a third sector group because of their disability, colour etc? Watch this space.

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