Premises and sites: accessibility
Hertfordshire's Accessibility Strategy
The Accessibility Strategy sets out the local authority plan to increase access to education for pupils with disabilities in the schools for which it is responsible. Schools should take account of the local authority strategy when drawing up their own school accessibility plans. The strategy is also relevant to academies, free schools and other education settings not maintained by the local authority as they also have a statutory duty to draw up and publish a school accessibility plan.
Accessibility Plans (Equalities Act 2010)
The Equalities Act 2010 requires all schools to prepare and publish an accessibility plan for their site setting out how schools will increase the accessibility, over time, for disabled pupils.
In order to prepare the plan, a school must first have an access audit undertaken.
Access audits for schools relate directly to the Ofsted Framework Section 8 which states that Ofsted will be looking at 'the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the pupils at the school and in particular the needs of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs.'
An accessibility audit will assess the site and identify what is required in order to comply with accessibility requirements and how these might be prioritised. An accessibility audit is a live document which will inform schools of all areas of their site which do not meet the requirements of Equality Act 2010. It will help the school to identify a programme of work that it could reasonably be expected to progress.
There are a number of companies who are willing to undertake accessibility audits for schools. Further information can be found by consulting the National register:
Improving the physical environment of schools will involve improving access to existing buildings through reasonable adjustments. This may involve, for example, the creation of safe spaces, calming areas, and individual workstations, as well as providing a suitable physical environment for children and young people with disabilities. Improvements to physical access might include ramps, handrails, lifts, widened doorways, electromagnetic doors, adapted toilets and washing facilities, adjustable lighting, blinds, induction loops, well designed room acoustics and way-finding systems. All new school buildings have to comply with current building regulations and should be physically accessible to pupils with SEND.
All schools need to consider the reasonable adjustments which may be needed for pupils with SEND generally and also for specific pupils including those expected to transfer into the school.
The responsibility for funding lies with the school but where major works (i.e. over £15k) are likely to be required in exceptional circumstances, schools can submit a business case for additional funding as part of the wider schools capital programme.