We are still auditing during Lockdown 3
All primary and secondary schools have now closed, after England was put into a third national lockdown last week. Schools are required to offer remote learning until at least mid-February and GCSE and A-level exams face cancellation for a second year.
Whilst the schools are not open to all children, the vulnerable and children of key workers are still allowed to attend schools for face-to-face learning, and early years settings such as nurseries are still open as it stands. However this is subject to change.
At Equality Act Audits, we have delayed the on-site accessibility audits until after February half term. However, we are still taking bookings and offering expert advice to any schools who may need it.
When schools do finally return to the new 'normal', with their doors open to all pupils, the measures that were put into place in the middle of last year will still be required. Schools have already had to thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessments and draw up plans that address the risk identified using the government’s ‘System of Controls’. They have also had to adapt their settings significantly for non-SEND children, what about their SEND counterparts?
This is an area which is often overlooked with budget constraints meaning that schools are often overlooking the need for an Accessibility Plan.
It is arguably now more important than ever to ensure that schools are ready for the return of their pupils from an accessibility view point. Ensuring all children have equal access to learning should be paramount for all schools.
Where to start?
We would advise that all schools firstly undertake a full access audit of their building, published information, and curriculum. A good access consultant, who is sensitive to budgetary issues within school settings, and thus able to suggest practical ways to ensure compliance with equality legislation, is always the best option. Once an Accessibility Plan is in place, then schools can consider adjustments to be made with regards to COVID-19.
This is often dismissed as an expensive process, however this couldn't be further from the truth. Adjustments do not always need to be costly and sometimes do not cost anything at all.
Equality Act Audits has helped many schools throughout the pandemic ensure that they are COVID-19 secure, as well as being accessible to all pupils. If you would like some more details please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.