Parents 'in the dark' about school accessibility plans for disabled children

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Some schools are failing in their legal duty to publicise accessibility plans setting out how they meet the needs of disabled pupils and their families.

Research from campaign group the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has raised concerns that too many parents are in the dark about the existence of such plans, which are often “hidden away” on school websites.

Accessibility plans have been a legal requirement since 2002 and are intended to improve access, ensure teaching and assessment are appropriate for disabled children, and that parents are involved in decision-making.

The research, which is based on a series of focus groups, interviews and surveys involving around 400 disabled secondary school pupils and their parents, finds that just seven per cent of parents have been invited by schools to take part in developing accessibility plans.

The report states: “None of the parents we spoke to knew anyone who had used an accessibility plan to appeal against disabling practices. Many parents did not even know that schools are legally required to provide lifts, ramps or other reasonable adjustments.

“Disabled young people and their parents are given little or no information – even around the existence of accessibility plans. Often parents take 30 to 40 minutes to find the plans on the school website – with many only looking after we told them they existed.”

By failing to publicise and implement accessibility plans, a school might be breaching the SEND Act 2001, the Equality Act 2010, and the SEND Code of Practice (2015).

The report added: “Those parents who found their school’s plan felt it was a tick-box exercise. Their promises around access and support are unfulfilled and the fine words are meaningless in practice. Parents agreed that the culture and ethos of a school would determine if the plans were embedded in everyday school life and decisions.”

The study was funded by the Drill programme – Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning – and it also reports that many disabled pupils report that they are unable to take part in a full range of school activities, such as school trips and PE lessons.

Recommendations in the report include new national guidelines to support schools, increased monitoring from the Department for Education and better training for school leaders.

Dr Armineh Soorenian, who carried out the research, said: “Schools should involve parents in developing and reviewing their accessibility plans. They should promote them rather than hiding them away in the furthest reaches of their website. Crucially, schools clearly need to turn the fine words often set out in those plans into meaningful support for disabled pupils and their parents.”

  • The report – Accessibility plans as effective tools for inclusion in schools: Are they working? – can be downloaded via www.drilluk.org.uk


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