Accessibility Statement - August 2014
The Equality Act 2010 and related Equality Duty 2011 reiterate the duty upon schools as laid out in the previous Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
The accompanying guidance for schools makes it clear that schools continue to have a duty to produce an accessibility plan.
Schools must implement accessibility plans, which are aimed at:
- increasing the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the curriculum;
- improving the physical environment of schools to enable disabled pupils to take better advantage of education, benefits, facilities and services provided; and
- improving the availability of accessible information to disabled pupils.
Schools will need to have regard to the need to provide adequate resources for implementing plans and must regularly review them.
Local Authorities must, for the schools for which they are responsible, prepare an accessibility strategy based on the same principle as the accessibility plans for schools.
This accessibility strategy therefore applies to local authority maintained schools, nurseries, children’s centres and early years settings. It does not apply to academies, PFI funded schools or private nursery providers on school site – owners/governing bodies of provisions must produce their own accessibility strategy in accordance with the Equality Act.
The local authority will seek to ensure that schools within its jurisdiction do not disadvantage or discriminate against a disabled pupil because of their disability.
Disability: The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as “when a person has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-today activities”.
This broad description covers physical disabilities, sensory impairments, such as those affecting sight or hearing, and learning disabilities and also some specified medical conditions, HIV, multiple sclerosis and cancer are all considered as disabilities, regardless of their effect.
The Act sets out details of matters that may be relevant when determining whether a person meets the definition of disability. Long term is defined as lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months.
Schools: all maintained schools and settings for which Southampton City Council is responsible.
Discrimination: A public body (in this case, a school) must not disadvantage a disabled pupil because of something that is a consequence of their disability. The interpretation of “discrimination” with in relation to disability in this accessibility strategy reflects changes specified in the Equality Act 2010.
There can no longer be justification for direct discrimination in any circumstances (under the previous Disability Discrimination Act, schools could justify some direct discrimination – if was a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim).
This accessibility strategy also seeks to protect pupils against indirect discrimination – to ensure that a school does not do something which applies to all pupils but which is more likely to have an adverse effect on disabled pupils only.
The local authority will work closely with schools and school governors to agree reasonable adjustments which will allow disabled pupils full access to school facilities and activities. We will also work together with all settings to anticipate, predict and plan for the needs of disabled pupils.
Reasonable adjustments: In the Equality Duty 2011, the duty to make reasonable adjustments applies only to disabled people. For schools, this duty is summarised as follows and this accessibility strategy recognises and promotes these principles:
Where something a school does places a disabled pupil at a disadvantage compared to other pupils then the school must take reasonable steps to try and avoid that disadvantage.
In addition to having a duty to consider reasonable adjustments for particular individual disabled pupils, schools will also have to consider potential adjustments which may be needed for disabled pupils generally as it is likely that any school will have a disabled pupil at some point.
It is important to note that the duty on schools to make reasonable adjustments is anticipatory. Schools should not wait until a disabled pupil arrives before making or planning to make adjustments. This may be too late and could lead to a pupil being substantially disadvantaged, it is important therefore for schools to plan a broad range of accessibility improvements over time.
Schools are not obliged to anticipate and make adjustments for every imaginable disability and need only consider general reasonable adjustments - e.g. being equipped to produce large font papers for pupils with a visual impairment even if there are none currently admitted to the school.
It will be for schools to consider the reasonableness of adjustments based on the circumstances of each case. (The Equality Act does not set out what would be a reasonable adjustment or a list of factors to consider in determining what is reasonable). However, factors a school may consider when assessing the reasonableness of an adjustment may include the financial or other resources required for the adjustment, its effectiveness, its effect on other pupils, health and safety requirements and whether aids should be made available from other agencies through the Education Health & Care Assessment process introduced in 2014.
What would be a reasonable “adjustment” is often a matter of judgement and, wherever possible, should be decided by agreement between the local authority, the school and parents/carers e.g. the right of a pupil to attend a school of their choice (within the context of SCC’s admissions procedures) should be balanced with the responsibility of the council to make the most efficient use of its resources – see Annex A for further clarification.
All maintained schools will be required to have an accessibility plan which is regularly reviewed. This is the responsibility of the governing body. As part of this regular review, schools will also need to have regard to the need to provide adequate resources for implementing plans and must regularly review them.
An accessibility plan may be a freestanding document but may also be published as part of another document such as the school development plan. It must be freely available to parents/carers.
Publishing, in the context of the Equality Duty, can be interpreted as making the school’s accessibility plan widely and easily available, perhaps on the school’s website.
Hard copies should be available on request and, also on request; the school should be prepared to make available versions of the plan which would be accessible to parents with different communication needs (including alternative languages). Written information for disabled pupils needs to be given in formats that take account of their specific disabilities and the views expressed by the pupils and their parents about their preferred means of communication.
Please note: the Local Authority acknowledges that it is the intention in the Equality Act 2010 that Schools will be expected to provide an auxiliary aid or service for a disabled pupil when it would be reasonable to do so and if such an aid would alleviate any substantial disadvantage that the pupil faces in comparison to non-disabled pupils. Schools and local authorities will (when provisions are implemented) be under a duty to supply auxiliary aids and services as reasonable adjustments where these are not being supplied through Education Health & Care Plans.
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on schools and local authorities to make “reasonable adjustments” to facilitate access to education provision for disabled pupils. This can mean that the school and/or the local authority is required to invest in making physical adaptations to the site and buildings, in order to ensure that pupils can access the curriculum as fully as practicably feasible.
In each case, it is for the school to determine whether they would envisage an issue with pupils accessing the educational offer in advance of the issue materialising. The school should make an initial assessment of the situation and, if it is evident that the need can be met via minor adjustments that would typically be paid from a school’s budget (e.g. painting, signage etc.), it would be expected that such adjustments would be deemed to be “reasonable” and therefore implemented and paid for by the school.
If, however, significant capital works are required the school should make a request to school’s Liaison Manager, within the council’s Strategy & Capital Programme Team, for capital assistance.
Typically, works in this category would involve an alteration to the structural fabric of the building and/or site and could include, for example, the installation of a lift, ramps, canopies, changing facilities etc. In such cases, the local authority will typically send out its designated officer, with a surveyor, to assess the scale of the works required and the cost entailed. This assessment will enable the local authority to determine what form of adjustments would be deemed “reasonable” in any given instance, on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, in which the financial implications will be balanced/measured against the perceived educational benefit that would be derived from the adaptations in question.
Whilst the local authority is committed to ensuring equal access to education for all, it does also have a duty to utilise its resources in the most effective manner, so adjustments will not automatically be authorised, especially if they entail significant expenditure. Should authorisation for a package of works be granted by the local authority, it would be expected that such works would be undertaken and paid for by the council directly. In this respect, early notification of potential access issues by schools is especially important, so as to ensure that the local authority can provide a timely response that meets the needs of both the school and pupil(s) in question.