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Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments 

  May 2014 

1. Why are schools expected to make reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils? 

1.1 The Equality Act 2010 states that schools and education authorities have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils and their parents. This includes a duty to provide both auxiliary aids and additional services. Good education and skills are crucial for opening up opportunities and increasing the chance of a successful life. In addition, in England, equality and diversity are a ‘limiting judgment’ in Ofsted inspections. This means that if equality measures are not implemented effectively this will restrict the overall inspection grade.  This applies to all schools irrespective of how they are funded or managed, and the responsible body of any school is responsible for breaches of the Act. 

1.2 The duty to make reasonable adjustments is triggered where the pupil experiences “substantial disadvantage”, where substantial is defined as anything more than minor or trivial.  

2. What is a disability?  To whom does this legislation apply? 

2.1 The Act states that a pupil has a disability if they have a physical or mental or sensory impairment which has a long term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to engage in normal day to day activities. It also covers gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity issues.

2.2 While some pupils with a disability do not have special educational needs, nationally 75% do.  The Education and Families Bill 2013 and Draft SEN Code of practice 2013 covers provision for children and young people aged 0-25 years.  While some disabled pupils may have an EHC Plan, many will not and it is the duty of the education setting to ensure that such pupils do not suffer discriminatory practices in the classroom or wider school environment

2.3 Some pupils may not have a disability themselves, but may have a parent with a disability which affects their ability to support their child in school, for example, a parent with mobility problems or mental health issues.  Reasonable adjustments should be made by the school to facilitate liaison with that parent if failure to do so would cause the pupil “substantial disadvantage”.

3. Examples of disability impairments or equality issues leading to the likely need for reasonable adjustments:

(NB this list is not intended to be exhaustive, merely indicative.  Some conditions may be considered to overlap with other categories)

Individual cases will be decided by the Courts so the list of needs and adjustments below are suggestions

3.1 Physical (medical): brittle bone syndrome, dwarfism, vestibular and proprioception issues, issues arising from traumatic head injury, pregnancy and gender reassignment.  Motor and muscular development and continence difficulties.  A range of childhood illnesses including, for example, epilepsy, diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer.

3.2 Sensory: hearing impairment, visual impairment.

3.3 Mental: learning disability (specific or global), mental health disorders of conduct (e.g aggression, bullying, oppositional defiant disorder), or emotion (anxiety, depression), emotional trauma (post traumatic stress, severe attachment difficulties, phobias, bereavement, assault or abuse), a range of childhood developmental conditions such as ADHD, autism and autistic spectrum conditions,

3.4 Communication: specific language difficulties, selective mutism

4. What are reasonable adjustments?  How do they differ from normal good practice in differentiation?

4.1 It is expected that all teachers in all good schools differentiate* the academic curriculum to the individual learning needs of their pupils, having assessed their abilities and attainments when they arrive in the school, establishing what the pupil can do now and what they need to learn next.  Pupils with a disability with or without special educational needs should have the same opportunities to learn and to demonstrate achievement as other pupils, and it is possible that further differentiation, auxiliary aids or additional teaching may be required.  This includes the opportunity to sit appropriate public and vocational examinations with appropriate special examination arrangements.

*Differentiation can be by task set, by outcome of that task, by adult support, by resources (including auxiliary aids), by additional time, or by learning environment (for example, having a quiet workstation within the classroom or sitting examinations in a small, quiet room).

4.2 Teachers of all pupils are also expected to have regard to the social curriculum of the school, and to differentiate provision where necessary.  Children and young people develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally at different rates.  One pupil can be physically mature but emotionally and socially immature whilst another may be physically delayed in their development but cognitively, socially and emotionally mature.  Pupils have very different senses of identity and self worth.  Many will need support to develop, maintain and extend their social interaction skills with peers and adults, and to have differential provision during the unstructured times of the school day (playtimes, lunch times) and for school clubs. Pupils with a disability with or without special educational needs should have the same opportunities as other pupils should they wish to join clubs and societies and to develop friendships, and it is possible that further differentiation, auxiliary aids or additional mentoring and support may be required.  

4.3 For the disabled parents of children and young people in school, reasonable adjustments in terms of access to the school premises, availability of teaching staff to discuss a child’s progress, access to written information etc should be made so that their children in school are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with other pupils.

4.4 The line which divides normal good practice in differentiation which should be practised by all teachers for all pupils and the provision of reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils with or without special educational needs is not clearly delineated.  The guiding principle is that disabled pupils with or without SEN should not be placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled pupils and that disabled parents should not be disadvantaged in supporting their children’s’ education.

4.5 Some of the factors which schools will need to take into account when considering what adjustments it is reasonable to make are:  (i) the extent to which support is already provided under an Education, Health and Care Plan, (ii) the resources of the school and the availability of finance or other services, (iii) an analysis of cost and benefit to the pupil, whether another agency can, or is already providing the support.  The termly School Review meeting, attended by pupil, parents/carers and senior management staff is the most likely arrangement for inclusive discussion of all the issues involved.  Such reviews should ideally be called in anticipation of any difficulties, and should not be called only in response to crises brought on by lack of planning. Schools are prohibited from requiring the costs of any adjustments to be paid for by parents.  Failure to make such reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils is regarded as unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.  Reviewing schools’ behaviour and exclusions policies regularly will ensure that they do not inadvertently discriminate against pupils with a particular protected characteristic by including factors that would make it more likely that pupils with that particular protected characteristic would be disciplined or excluded than those without.

  • 5. Some examples of reasonable adjustments in practice. (further examples can be downloaded from the Equality and Human rights commission website) www.equalityhumanrights.com

Cognition & learning:

1. A specific learning difficulty (dyslexia). 

A girl in Y7 at secondary school was placed in the bottom sets when she arrived from primary school as she had particular difficulties in English lessons but also difficulties in all lessons with recording on paper.  The girl began to behave disruptively in lessons, being rude to other pupils and staff and started to refuse to do tasks set by teachers.  She was seen by an educational psychologist who has found that she had general cognitive abilities in the high ability range, but that she was reading and spelling at a level some four years below her chronological age.  The school moved the pupil into higher sets where the work was at her intellectual level.  As she was unable to read or record at the required level, she was provided with assistive technology (in this case an ipad) with voice recognition and text to voice software.  Using Load2learn, the girl was provided with downloadable resources including digital copies of text books.  She was allowed to submit homework using her voice recognition software and had special examination arrangements.  Behaviour problems ceased and the girl engaged with her learning. 

Communication and Interaction:

2. A pupil with autism spent his break and lunchtimes refusing to go outside but sitting next to the radiator in his classroom, talking to himself and making strange sounds.  Other pupils were starting to use verbally abusive language in relation to him. Teachers who tried to insist that he go outside with the other pupils were ignored and if they persisted by trying to guide him by the arm, they were roughly pushed away.  Eventually, it transpired that the pupil was “relaxing” between the strain of lessons by going into his own world and playing dvds of favourite films in his head.  He knew the words by heart and was making the sound effects and actions at the appropriate time.  The reasonable adjustment in this case was to allow him to remain indoors in the short term, as he was safe in the classroom.  Longer term, it was possible to encourage peer interaction by getting one other pupil to discuss films with him and to compare likes and dislikes.  Intervention took place with the other pupils to make sure they understood more about his condition and what he was doing when he was “talking to himself”.  They eventually had to admire his comprehensive ability to recite entire films by heart. 

Sensory and/or physical:

3. Angela is going to provide an example 

Emotional, Social and Behavioural development

4. Blackpool pupil attending a mainstream secondary school who was displaying challenging behaviours which, parent believed to be linked to ASD and also felt there were associated learning difficulties, although the child did not have any diagnoses.

Over a period of time the pupil had numerous exclusions from school for behavioural issues.  During one such exclusion the child confided to the parent partnership officer, “Why can’t I just go to a room on my own when I get angry, why won’t they leave me alone until I calm down, all they do is keep asking me questions about why I’m angry”.

As a result of this, the school agreed to identify a suitable room where this pupil could go should he feel angry in the future and to allocate a named member of staff to whom the pupil could go with any worries or concerns.  This was discussed and agreed with mother prior to being suggested to the pupil.   However, the adjustment proved not to be needed as often as had been expected due to the simple fact that this pupil felt he had been listened to.    



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