Specuak Needs Week logo

Article Index

At the heart of the legislation that relates to Special Needs is The Equality Act 2010, an act that applies to all of the UK except Northern Ireland and which pulls together many of the issues that relate to discrimination in all its forms.

The Equality Act stresses that all local authority schools, free schools, and academy schools have a duty to meet the special needs requirements of the children in their school as  laid down in the Equality Act 2010.  There is a government web site covering the relationship between schools and the Equality act.

Very, very few teachers or school managers would ever dream of breaking the Equality Act on purpose; but sometimes an individual teacher or manager in the school might easily forget just what the Act says, so it is worth reminding ourselves what is in this primary legislation.

In essence the Equality Act means that schools cannot discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.

The law on disability discrimination is different from the rest of the Act, and in essence it means that schools are allowed to (and indeed should) treat disabled pupils more favourably than non-disabled pupils.  Indeed in some cases schools are required to do so, by making reasonable adjustments to put the special needs pupils and students on a more level footing with pupils without disabilities.

However the Act makes it quite clear that schools do not have to go to any length to meet the requirements of a disabled pupil or student (for example, a school in a Victorian building could argue that it is simply not viable to widen every door and install lifts for a wheelchair bound student, especially if such changes could affect the very fabric of the building). 

But when it comes to supplying teaching resources which are readily available and low cost, it is virtually impossible to make this argument.  Indeed as the link below to a case in Scotland shows, schools can be required to go the extra mile to make provision for a disabled student.

In short section 4.3 of the Equality Act suggests absolutely clearly that schools and the authorities that own or manage the schools do have an obligation to provide equal measures of education irrespective of disability, and on occasion may be expected to go further to meet the special needs of a child.

In addition to the Equality Act each part of the UK has its own regulations, and advisory documents.  A few of these are shown below.