The Equality Act 2010 brought together a range of equality duties and requirements within one piece of legislation. The Act introduced a single Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED - sometimes also referred to as the ‘general duty’) that applies to public bodies, including maintained schools and academies (including Free Schools) and which extends to all protected characteristics - race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. This combined equality duty came into effect in April 2011.
The duty has three main elements. In carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
- foster good relations across all characteristics - between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
Requirements for local authorities to put in place an accessibility strategy are specified in schedule 10 of the Act: Accessibility for disabled pupils.
Schedule 10 says: an accessibility strategy is a strategy for, over a prescribed period -
a) increasing the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the schools’ curriculums;
b) improving the physical environment of the schools for the purpose of increasing the extent to which disabled pupils are able to take advantage of education and benefits, facilities or services provided or offered by the schools;
c) improving the delivery to disabled pupils of information which is readily accessible to pupils who are not disabled.
The delivery of information in (c) must be:
a) within a reasonable time;
b) in ways which are determined after taking account of the pupils’ disabilities and any preferences expressed by them or their parents.
A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. A physical or mental impairment includes learning difficulties, mental health conditions, medical conditions and hidden impairments such as dyslexia, autism and speech, language and communication impairments (Equality Act 2010).
Achieving for Children (AfC) promotes a positive attitude towards diversity. The local authority is committed to providing a service that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the diverse community it serves. This commitment is therefore reflected in the company’s accessibility strategy. The strategy encourages a proactive approach to improving access for pupils with disabilities. The strategy has regard to the duties as outlined in the Equality Act 2010 amended and in particular the main duties:
- Not to treat disabled pupils less favourably for a reason related to their disability.
- To make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils so they are not at a substantial disadvantage.
The accessibility strategy outlines the steps the authority is taking to improve access for pupils with a disability. The strategy aims to promote a proactive approach to improving access by:
- Ensuring that the rights of pupils with disabilities are upheld.
- Supporting the aims and aspirations of pupils with a disability.
- Improving access to information, curriculum and the environment.
- Creating a positive attitude towards disability and challenge negative perceptions.
- Developing a culture of awareness, acceptance and inclusion.
It is recognised that many of these steps will benefit all school users.
Achieving for Children has a wide range of provisions available to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. AfC has specialist teams providing advice and support at whole-school, group and individual levels. In addition to this, our support for SENCos and specialist provisions continually focuses on enhancing provision and support for SEND pupils.
Increasing Access to the Curriculum
The joint commissioning of education, health and care provision for children and young people required by the Children and Families Act 2014 should lead to the development of more integrated packages of support which will support children and young people with disabilities in accessing the curriculum.
All schools are responsible for providing a broad, balanced and inclusive curriculum for all pupils and in particular for disabled pupils. AfC continually works to embed the principles of personalisation and person-centred planning into all providers’ work with children and young people with SEND. This, together with the graduated approached expected by the SEND Code of Practice; 0 to 25, should make the curriculum more accessible to all children and young people.
Achieving for Children supports schools to respond to individual needs of pupils and training needs of staff with a range of specialist services. AfC’s Local Offer provides information about the provision available to support access to the curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities.
Achieving for Children will work to engage with parents and carers of pupils with disabilities to inform and develop good practice within settings. Good practice will be shared through meetings each term with SENCO groups, staff from specialist provisions and meetings with school leadership teams and governors.
Improving the Physical Environment
Improving the physical environment of schools includes improving physical access to schools as well. All new school buildings have to comply with current building regulations and should be physically accessible to disabled pupils.
Much of the work in this area will involve improving access to existing buildings. Improved access to the physical environment can be achieved through reasonable adjustments and schools do need to consider potential adjustments which may be needed for disabled pupils generally, as it is likely that all schools will have disabled pupils.
The Equality act makes provision of accessibility aids the responsibility of the school. Aids to improve access education, include: ICT equipment, enlarged computer screens and keyboards, switches, specialist desks and chairs, and portable aids for pupils with poor motor co-ordination and poor hand/eye skills, such as extra robust scientific glassware and specialist pens and pencils. Advice regarding purchasing specialist equipment might be offered by physiotherapists, occupational therapists or ICT assessment.
Achieving for Children is committed to developing the range of provision available across Kingston and Richmond and recognises that investment in buildings supports improved access to a full curriculum for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Improving Access to Information
The requirement in the Children and Families Act 2014 to develop a Local Offer has the express purpose of making information more accessible. Achieving for Children’s is available at www.afcinfo.org.uk (opens a new window)
The developing and widening use of ICT is significantly transforming the lives of everybody but especially those children and young people who are unable to communicate using traditional methods. AfC liaises with partners in schools and health professionals to ensure there is a consistent and equitable method of securing expensive technological aids, such as Alternative and Augmentative Communication Aids.
The KIDS Richmond and Kingston SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) offers impartial information, advice and support to families of children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) encouraging and developing partnerships between children, young people, parents, schools, the council and other partners.
Consultation, Implementation and Review
This strategy was produced after analysis of a number of different SEND focussed consultations in both Richmond and Kingston.AfC will support schools in implementing the strategy which will be kept under regular review.
The Accessibility Plan
AfC used the consultations to draw up an action plan for the implementation of the required disability equality duties (see top of page). This action plan sets out how we plan to:
- increase the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the curriculum
- improve the physical environment of schools to enable disabled pupils to take better advantage of education, benefits, facilities and services provided
- improve the availability of accessible information to disabled pupils
The accessibility plan also agrees arrangements for review and reporting against the agreed objectives which are specific and measurable.