If you don't believe that your child's school is making reasonable adjustments to deal with their special needs or disabilities, then you do have a legal right to challenge them on this.
The Equality Act of 2010 enshrined in UK law sets out comprehensive provisions relating to the prevention of discrimination in all educational institutions, including schools for all ages, colleges, universities and academies. Before starting at any such educational institution, pupils or students with disabilities or special educational needs - or more likely their parents or guardians - need to make sure the institution is aware of their disability. Once they are aware, the educational institution is then legally obliged to make certain that "reasonable adjustments" are made that prevent these pupils or students from being educationally disadvantaged because of their condition.
What exactly is meant by "reasonable adjustments"?
As laid out in the Equality Act 2010, every educational institution has the duty "to take such steps as is reasonable" in order to "avoid substantial disadvantage" to any disabled pupil or student. This duty is split into three areas:
- Physical features. This refers to the physical make-up of an educational establishment, as in the actual bricks and mortar that allow physical access into the various buildings, classrooms and spaces. Reasonable adjustments in this case generally consist of things like making sure there are sufficient ramps or lifts, making sure doors are wide enough, providing adequate lighting or appropriately clear signage. The cost of any reasonable adjustment should not be cost prohibitive.
- Provisions, criteria or practices. This refers to such things like, disciplinary procedures, and covers all aspects of an institution’s procedures and policies, as well as any activities it arranges.
- Auxiliary aids. This might include ensuring that all information is provided in a readily accessible format. Examples of auxiliary aids are large print and Braille reading materials and the provision of any other specialist equipment or extra teaching assistants.
What if the duty to make reasonable adjustments has not been met?
If you feel that your child's school has not met its legal duty to eliminate substantial disadvantage, you should take the following steps, in the order given:
- You should arrange a meeting with the head teacher of your child's school to discuss the situation and the problem as you see it
- You should then take your case to the school's governing body or trust
- If your case is not immediately resolved, you should make a written complaint, taking care to follow the school's official complaints procedure
- You should then arrange to speak to your Local Authority
If you have followed these steps and still feel that your child is being treated unfairly, you may make a claim for unlawful discrimination. For any such claim against a school, you would do this through what is known in England as the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) or, as it is in Wales, the SEN Tribunal. You would have 6 months from the last act of discrimination to lodge a claim.
At Match Solicitors, we know how daunting all these procedures can be, and our dedicated staff of specialist education solicitors are here to help guide you through the quagmire. If you'd appreciate someone on your side, give us a call to discuss your son or daughter's situation in absolute confidence.