Schools and the Education Authority must not discriminate against pupils with special educational needs due to their disability. They should promote the inclusion of special educational needs pupils in their admission arrangements and in all aspects of school life.
Accessibility plans and 'reasonable adjustments'
Schools will vary widely in how accessible they are to individual pupils. You should check what improvements have been made to a school and what is being planned when considering which school you'd like your child to go to.
Every school must have a school accessibility plan, which shows how they plan to improve accessibility for special educational needs pupils - and when these improvements will be made.
To prepare the plan a school must first commission an Access Audit. The plan must be published and you can ask to see it. It will outline how the school will:
- improve the physical environment
- make improvements in the provision of information
- increase access to the curriculum
Schools can also increase access for individual pupils by making ‘reasonable adjustments’. These can be simple changes such as making sure that all lessons take place in ground floor classrooms for a class where one of the pupils uses a wheelchair and the school does not have a lift.
You should always talk to a school about what it can reasonably do to include your child.
Improvements to the physical environment
Changes to the physical environment that a school could make to increase access might include:
- lighting and paint schemes to help visually impaired children
- lifts and ramps to help physically impaired children
- carpeting and acoustic tiling of classrooms to help hearing impaired pupils
Improving the way information is delivered to pupils with disabilities
Information that is normally given in writing (such as handouts, timetables and textbooks) can be made more accessible by being offered in other formats:
- in Braille
- in large print
- on audio format
- using a symbol system
Adjustments that would help children with disabilities have better access to the curriculum might include:
- changes to teaching and learning arrangements
- classroom organisation
- support from other pupils
- School curriculum
Technology suited to your child's needs can help them learn faster and more easily. This can increase their access to the curriculum. Examples of technology that can help include:
- touch-screen computers, joysticks and tracker balls
- easy-to-use keyboards
- interactive whiteboards
- text-to-speech software
- Braille-translation software
- software that connects words with pictures or symbols
Some schools may already have this technology available or may be planning to get it.
Arrangements for distributing resources and funding for equipment vary throughout the UK. If your child has a statement of special educational needs, the help that is detailed on their statement (which may include special equipment) must be given.
While the same basic rules apply to all children, the Education Authority can decide to provide transport on a case by case basis for a child with disabilities.
Your Education Authority region office will assess your child's needs when making a decision, taking into account your child's health and/or disability. If your child is offered school transport, the vehicle should have the relevant equipment to suit your child's needs, for example, wheelchair restraints, ramps or lifts.
For more detailed information about approved transport arrangement, refer to your local Education Authority region office Transfer Booklet.
The Education Authority also provide escorts on school transport if needed. You may be able to get help with your own costs for taking your child to school. Your Education Authority region office will be able to tell you if this is possible.
If your child cannot go to school for medical reasons
If your child cannot go to school because of medical needs or health problems, the Education Authority is responsible for allowing them to continue their education. You child could get lessons in hospital, for example.