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Guidance and legislation

The SEN Code of Practice 2015 recognises that there is a significant overlap between disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs (SEN). Children and young people may therefore be covered by both SEN and disability legislation.

For children and young people with medical needs schools must have regards to the DfE guidance (2015): ‘Supporting children at school with medical conditions: Statutory guidance for governing bodies of maintained schools and proprietors of academies in England.’

Some children with medical conditions may be disabled. When this is the case the governing bodies must comply with their duties under The Equality Act, 2010.

The Equality Act in 2010 replaced all existing equality legislation such as the Races Relation Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act. The guidance document “The Equality Act 2010: advice for schools” provides the following information:

“The law on disability discrimination is different from the rest of the Act in a number of ways. In particular, it works in only one direction – that is to say, it protects disabled people but not people who are not disabled. This means that schools are allowed to treat disabled pupils more favourably than non-disabled pupil, and in some cases are required to do so, by making reasonable adjustments to put them on a more level footing with pupils without disabilities. Provision for disabled pupils is closely connected with the regime for children with special educational needs.”

The Equality Act defines disability as when a person has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Long term is defined as lasting, or likely to last, for at least 12 months.Some specific medical conditions , HIV, multiple sclerosis and cancer are all considered as disabilities, regardless of their effect.

When something a school does places a disabled pupil at a disadvantage compared to other pupils then the school must take reasonable steps, often defined as ‘reasonable adjustments’ to try and avoid that disadvantage. The Equality Act 2010 provides the framework and makes it a duty to put into place reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

For example, 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. Auxiliary aids can include things such as auxiliary aids, such as coloured overlays for dyslexic pupils, pen grips, adapted PE equipment, adapted keyboards and computer software.

The Equality Human Rights website contains technical advice to support schools, local authorities and college and further education settings on when it would be reasonable to make adjustments.

Schools are not subject to the requirement of reasonable adjustment duty concerned with making alterations to physical features because this is already considered as part of their planning duties.

The Equality Act also contains a requirement for local authorities to put in place an accessibility strategy. The West Sussex Accessibility Strategy, in keeping with the legislation, sets out the ways in which West Sussex County Council will increase access to education for disabled pupils, in the schools and settings for which it is responsible.

Last updated 10 September 2020

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