2018-21 Accessibility strategy and reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils
Local authorities are required to prepare an accessibility strategy in relation to schools for which they are the responsible body. Further strategies must be prepared at such times as may be prescribed.
The objectives of the accessibility strategy are to:
- increase the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in schools' curriculums
- improve the physical environment of 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 schools
- improve the delivery to disabled pupils of information which is readily accessible to pupils who are not disabled
Local authorities in implementing an accessibility strategy must have regard to:
- the need to allocate adequate resources for implementing the strategy
- pupils' disabilities and any preferences expressed by them or their parents
In addition, schools and education authorities have had a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils since 2002 (originally under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the DDA) and, from October 2010, under the Equality Act 2010). From 1 September 2012 the reasonable adjustments duty for schools and education authorities includes a duty to provide auxiliary aids and services for disabled pupils.
The duty is ‘to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the substantial disadvantage’ to a disabled person caused by a provision, criterion or practice applied by or on behalf of a school, or by the absence of an auxiliary aid or service.
Accessibility strategy and reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils
We believe that every child / young person should be able to access the full curriculum and other opportunities that are provided though their local early years setting/school, and will work with these settings and schools to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to make this possible. We are committed to working with schools and settings, partner agencies such as the Health Services, children and young people and their parents / carers to remove barriers to the achievement of good outcomes for children with disabilities. We promote appropriate inclusive practices, both in our own services and in the schools and settings in our area. While we will comply with all legislation around Equality, Access and Disability, we will also seek, together with our schools and settings, to go beyond this to make positive inclusion a reality for children and young people.
For a number of years, we have managed and administered funding for improved accessibility through the Schools Access Initiative (SAI). Numerous modifications and improvements have been made across all Central Bedfordshire schools to increase physical access. We have maintained an up to date Asset Management Plan for maintained schools and accessibility audits have been separately documented as part of suitability assessments to inform use of the SAI funding.
The current capital programme continues to allow for SAI funding for Community and Voluntary Controlled schools, and this is reviewed as appropriate. Voluntary Aided schools are also able to access DfE funding through the Local Authority Coordinated Voluntary Aided Programme.
The Department for Education (DfE) has allocated £1.6 million of additional capital funding to Central Bedfordshire Council – as part of £215 million made available across the country. The funding is being used to improve special provision for children and young people with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
We also work closely with health partners to establish the needs of individual pupils and to identify appropriate support. All new buildings and facilities are designed to be fully accessible.
An increasing number of Central Bedfordshire schools are seeking academy status and as a result are taking on full responsibility for ensuring accessibility for disabled pupils. Non maintained schools will have to apply to the Education Funding Agency for capital adjustments and will need to fund the provisions of auxiliary aids and services from their own budgets.
We will continue to support and challenge settings/schools to ensure that they fulfil these responsibilities. In instances where responsibilities are shared this will be managed strategically.
We will continue to signpost schools to guidance and good practice in making reasonable adjustments and removing barriers to learning and achievement.