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The Equality Act - supporting pupils with a disability in school

Guidance for Families - The Equality Act 2010: Supporting pupils with a disability in school

Download the Equality Act Flowchart: supporting pupils with a disability in school

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Is your child disabled under the Equality Act?

The Equality Act says that a person has a disability if they have:

“a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

  • Substantial means being more than minor or trivial.
  • Long-term means lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months.
  • A physical or mental impairment includes learning difficulties, mental health conditions, medical conditions and hidden impairments such as dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, autism, and speech, language and communication difficulties.

What must schools do to support pupils who have a disability?

Schools only have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if your child has a disability. When something a school does puts a disabled pupil at a disadvantage compared to other pupils, then school must make reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments are changes schools make to give a child or young person who is disabled, the same chance as anyone else to access school activities. The duty to make adjustments applies to all of the school’s activities and the decisions that are made by teachers and staff including:

  • preparation for school
  • teaching and learning
  • classroom organisation
  • timetabling
  • grouping of pupils
  • homework
  • access to school facilities
  • activities to supplement the curriculum
  • school sports
  • school policies
  • breaks and lunchtimes
  • assessment and exam arrangements
  • school discipline and exclusions
  • school clubs and activities
  • school trips
  • school uniform
  • careers education, information, advice and guidance
  • work experience opportunities

Physical features of schools

As part of their planning duties, schools must consider ways to make the buildings accessible for their disabled pupils. This may mean making changes to to physical features, such as adding ramps or lifts. Physical adaptions may be beyond a reasonable adjustment and in this case, the school must seek advice from outside services to assess the needs of the pupil and to build or install appropriate adaptions.

In some cases, rather than making building adaptations, accessibility issues can be ‘managed’ at a school level, for example swapping an inaccessible upstairs classroom with a ground floor classroom rather than installing an expensive lift. This would be a reasonable adjustment.

Schools are expected to provide auxiliary aids or a service for a disabled pupil when it would be reasonable to do so .

Examples of auxiliary aids include:

  • Coloured overlays
  • pen grips
  • adapted physical education equipment
  • adapted cookery utensils
  • alternative recording methods such as computers/tablets  

Schools must plan ahead 

The need to make reasonable adjustments is ‘anticipatory’. This means that a disabled pupil’s needs should be considered before and as part of planning any school activity.

As part of the Equality Act 2010, all schools must have an ‘accessibility plan’.

This plan must show how the school will:

  • Make sure disabled pupils can access the learning
  • Make sure disabled pupils are able to access the school site and facilities or services offered by the school
  • Make sure information is accessible to pupils who are disabled

The Equality Act says that the accessibility plan must take account of the pupils’ disabilities and the wishes of the pupils and their parents

The SEND code of practice 2015, states schools must publish an SEN Information report which includes information about :

  • Admissions of disabled pupils
  • What the school has done to  prevent disabled pupils from being treated less favourably than other pupils
  • How disabled pupils are helped to access the school site and its facilities

Services that support schools to meet an individual pupil’s needs

Cornwall Council have a number of services to support children with disabilities in school. They can be contacted for support if you feel your child’s needs are not being met within school. The services can work with the school to make sure reasonable adjustments are made in line with the Equality Act 2010.

What can you do if you think your child’s needs are not being met by their school?

In most cases, you should be able to resolve your problem informally, for example, by talking to your child’s teacher or head teacher.

If your problem isn’t resolved, you can make a formal complaint by following the school’s complaints procedure. This generally involves complaining in writing to the head teacher and then to the governing body. Further information can be found in the document 'Taking action about discrimination in schools' on the Citizen's Advice Website.  

Further information available