Under the Equality Act 2010, schools are duty bound to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils. This duty is to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid a pupil suffering a substantial disadvantage.
The Act says that a pupil has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Physical or mental impairment includes sensory impairments such as those affecting sight or hearing. In some cases it may be clear that a child is or is not disabled. However, in the event of uncertainty, it is best to proceed on the assumption that a child is disabled.
So what is a 'reasonable' adjustment? What is ‘reasonable’ is not defined in law. This is designed to allow flexibility for individual circumstances, meaning what is reasonable in one set of circumstances may not be reasonable in another. This means that there is risk for schools because what is reasonable can be a matter of interpretation. The Government has provided some guidance on the factors which may be taken into account. Some of these factors are listed below:
- The extent to which special educational provision will be provided to the disabled pupil under Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014
- 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
It is very important to make sure that reasonable adjustments are made for students. This will include having regard to national and school specific policies and ensuring they are properly followed. The pupil and their parents should also be fully involved in any discussion. Hopefully it will be possible to make adjustments but in the event of any disagreements it is important to keep a record of any discussions and the reasons why any final decision was made.