Schools must make reasonable adjustments to ensure children with disabilities receive the same provision, as far as possible, as the other children in their care.
In our final blog post about the Equality Act 2010 we talk about what reasonable adjustments might look like and who is responsible for making them. We also discuss what makes an adjustment 'reasonable' and whether there is ever any justification for not making adjustments.
What Are the Reasonable Adjustments Duties?
There are three key duties:
- To make adjustments to provision or practice
- To provide auxiliary aids and services
- To alter physical features
What Might Reasonable Adjustments Look Like?
Making adjustments to provision or practice might be ensuring a teacher faces a deaf child so they can lip read, training staff to meet a child’s needs, changing routines (e.g. making sure a child with ADHD is not required to line up for longer than they can manage), or creating learning resources specifically for a child.
Providing auxiliary aids and services could be providing an interpreter or a specialist teacher, producing Braille documents or providing assistive listening devices.
Altering physical features includes rearranging a room to make it more accessible, making sure a room is not too bright or ‘busy’ (for a child with autism, for example), changing lighting and ventilation,or displaying signs that a child understands.
Itis the school’s responsibility to anticipate the barriers a child might face and to plan reasonable adjustments before they start. Schools should regularly review their policies to make sure educational provision and practice is continually adapted to children’s needs.
How Will a School Decide if an Adjustment Is 'Reasonable'?
When planning reasonable adjustments a school will take into account:
- The health and safety of other children and adults in the school
- The interests of the other children
- How effective the adjustments will be in helping the child to overcome disadvantage
- The available financial resources
- How practical the proposed adjustments are
Under the Equality Act 2010 there can be 'justification' for not providing adjustments under these criteria. However, any justification for not making adjustments must be watertight. There must be proof that it is not a failure on the school’s part to plan ahead or to do everything they possibly can.
Who Is Responsible for Making Reasonable Adjustments?
'A duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to the responsible body of such a school' Equality Act 2010, Part 6 (6)
Ina school the 'responsible body' is the governing body; in an academy it is an academy trust; and in an independent school it is the proprietor.
However, a school can be charged with unlawful discrimination against a child if any member of staff places a child at a disadvantage.
What Happens if a School Does Not Meet Its Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments?
A disability discrimination claim may be brought against the school. This is likely to be the last resort taken by parents who will make a written complaint to the school first and then escalate their complaint with the Department of Education and Ofsted.
Schools will never be ordered to dismiss a member of staff or to make physical alterations to a building.
Where Can I Find Out More?
See 'Reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils' published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In our next legal blog post we will talk about the Children and Families Act 2014 which introduced Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC plans) and underpins SEND practice in the UK.