An Accessible future for your school
With the new school year well and truly underway, we have been inundated with requests for accessibility audits. That in mind, we wanted to take the opportunity to remind schools of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 and answer some questions we get asked frequently.
What is an Accessibility Audit and does my school need one?
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 write an Accessibility Plan, a school must first commission an Access Audit.
The Accessibility Audit is split into three equally-weighted parts and assesses how the school can:
improve the physical environment
make improvements in the provision of information
increase access to the curriculum
Can an Accessibility Audit be done 'in-house' using a check-list?
It can in theory when looking at the building. There are many websites available which have a 'free checklist' available for downloading which can inform you of what you should be looking for. However, these checklists only focus on the school building and not the school information and curriculum counterparts.
This is where a lot of schools struggle and come to us for help. Whilst they may be able to conduct an audit of their school building, they are lost when it comes to an audit of published information and their curriculum.
What is considered a 'reasonable adjustment' in relation to an accessibility audit?
Especially in times like these, determining what would be a ‘reasonable adjustment’ (especially to an un-trained eye) is extremely vague. Whilst the Equality Act 2010 does not actually state what is considered to be reasonable or not, it is actually designed for flexibility – what is reasonable in one circumstance might not be reasonable in another.
All situations are different and whilst it is not possible to say what would or wouldn’t be reasonable in a specific situation without examination, there are some factors which do help to decide, for example the financial cost of making the adjustment, the practicality of the adjustment in question, or the impact on pupils. This again is where a trained professional may be a better choice than the 'in-house' option.
My school building is new, does that mean I do not need an Accessibility Audit?
Absolutely not. An Accessibility Plan is a statutory document required by the Department for Education. It is also important to remember that the Accessibility Plan does not just look at the school building - it looks at published information and the curriculum.
Some schools also believe they do not need an accessibility audit if they have no children with a special need on their school roll. This again is a misconception, Schools must be prepared for all circumstances. What if there was a prospective parent wishing to visit the school with a particular need? Schools must be pro-active not reactive.
Another point worth considering is that there are many companies out there who can undertake an accessibility audit of your school building. However, they will not be able to audit your curriculum or published information - you will still have to do this yourself and put the information into an 'Accessibility Plan'.
Equality Act Audits however are the only company in the UK who are able to comment on the curriculum and published information and present you with an Accessibility Plan ready to be published. We are education professionals who have previously worked in school settings and have a wealth of information.
If you would like some more information, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org