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  • Writer's pictureEquality Act Audits

The SEND Review - what does it mean for Accessibility Planning?

Today, the Government released their 'SEND Review', a green paper which sets out details on how they intend to overhaul the special educational needs and disabilities (#SEND) system. This paper includes proposals on how they will increase accountability and boost earlier intervention to ensure that children’s needs are better met in local settings.

Unfortunately, under the current regime, parents often have to engage in lengthy battles to try to secure the right provision for their child, in a system that is heavily bureaucratic and adversarial. Some specialist provision is only available out of area, leading to costs amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for the most needy children.

The paper proposes to ensure that every child and young person has their needs identified quickly and met more consistently, with support determined by their needs, not by where they live. The restoration of families’ trust and confidence in an inclusive education system with excellent mainstream provision is of paramount importance.

The #SENDReview states that the 'inconsistency across the system, around the identification and support of needs, means that there is inconsistent practice in place'. For Equality Act Audits, this really resonates. We notice a great inconsistency when we speak to schools regarding their #accessibilityplanning. There is often great confusion as to what schools are meant to be doing with regards to #SEND.

There is no better time than to ensure that you have an #AccessibilityPlan in place. Particularly due to the fact that yesterday the Government also announced that by 2025, all schools will have a new #Ofsted inspection. Ofsted, of course, ask to see your #AccessibilityPlan during their inspection.

Unfortunately, schools' accessibility planning seems to be one of those areas that gets pushed to the bottom of a priority pile, especially as it is not policed. (This is perhaps because a school's ack of accessibility planning only crops up when a specific issue comes to light, such as the arrival of a pupil with SEND). However, with the announcement that Ofsted will be inspecting all schools by 2025, now is the time to ensure it is up to date.

Many of the schools we’ve advised in the past have originally tried to take on the work themselves following a 'tick-box' approach, but in virtually all cases this has proved more expensive as, does it take up the precious time of those involved, it can also result in unnecessary and costly building works.

This also does not take into account the Site Manager/SENCO might lack the knowledge to discern what can and can’t be considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ – a common stumbling block for many organisations trying to undertake their own access audits.

Why us?

We can take the stress away from you and ensure that your Accessibility Plan is ready for the Ofsted inspection.

An experienced access consultant – one sensitive to the budgetary issues at play within school settings – will be able to suggest practical ways of ensuring compliance with equality legislation without recourse to costly works. Using a checklist downloaded from the internet might seem at first glance like a convenient time and cost saving, but it’s one that typically comes at the expense of good outcomes for those with accessibility needs.

Opting to instead enlist an access consultant possessing a breadth and depth of accessibility expertise needn’t carry a significant cost, and will make it that much more likely that your school obtains an accessibility plan which clearly demonstrates its desire to be inclusive to all.

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