The Equality Act 2010 is designed to avoid discrimination and promote equality. In a school setting, this means giving all pupils equal opportunities, regardless of their circumstances and backgrounds. With an up-to-date Accessibility Plan, school leaders can understand their legal responsibilities and tackle inequalities in education.
The Act covers all aspects of school life and includes not only pupils, but also prospective pupils, parents, carers, employees and members of the community.
One area of concern that we come across frequently is school trips. School leaders are concerned as to how they will accommodate pupils with a disability on their organised school trips. Schools are required to make sure that disabled pupils can play as full a part in school life as possible which includes going on school trips.
Whilst schools do not have to cancel school trips (the Act does not require this), the school must do all they can to make sure that disabled pupils are given the same opportunities to take part in these activities as other pupils.
So, what would be considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ in this situation? It is a rather case-by-case situation, with various factors playing a part. A professional with experience in this situation would be able to advise on specific cases – we do this on a regular basis and have helped many schools in these situations. Generally speaking however, reasonable adjustments may include:
a) Researching alternative trips that all pupils would be able to attend.
b) Providing additional assistance for the child in question – whether this be a special vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair, or additional support in the form of extra staff.
It is important to remember that the Equality Act 2010 does not override Health and Safety legislation. The safety of pupils on school trips is the most important and schools must undertake the relevant risk assessments to ensure the safety of all.