Schools Accessibility Strategy

National Background

Improving access to education and educational achievement for pupils with a disability is essential to ensure equality of opportunity, full participation in society, access to employment opportunities and inclusion within mainstream education.

The Equality Act 2010 replaces all previous disability discrimination legislation and disability is one of the nine protected characteristics in the Act. The Equality and Human Rights Commission website gives full details of the Equality Act.

The General Duty

This duty requires schools, when carrying out their functions, to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010;
  • Eliminate harassment of disabled pupils that is related to their disability;
  • Promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people;
  • Promote positive attitudes towards disabled people;
  • Encourage participation by disabled people in public life;
  • Take steps to take account of disabled people’s disabilities even where that involves treating disabled people more favourably than other people.

The General Duty applies across schools’ duties, and applies to disabled pupils, staff and parents/carers, along with other users of the school.

The Specific Duty

In addition to the General Duty, there is a Specific Duty for schools to demonstrate how they are meeting the General Duty. The main requirement is for schools to prepare and publish a disability equality scheme, involving disabled people in the development of this scheme, and to implement the scheme and report on it. In effect, the General Duty sets out what schools do, with the Specific Duty setting out how schools have to do it and what they need to record as evidence of what they have done.

Reasonable Adjustment Duty

The Equality Act requires schools and the LA to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled pupils are not at a substantial disadvantage. Reasonable adjustments meet the statutory requirements when they act to prevent disabled pupils being placed at a substantial disadvantage, and when they enable pupils to participate in education and other benefits, facilities and services which the school provides.

When deciding if a reasonable adjustment is necessary, schools need to consider potential impact on disabled pupils in terms of time and effort, inconvenience, indignity and discomfort, loss of opportunity and diminished progress.

The Act does not set out what would be a reasonable adjustment or a list of factors to consider in determining what is reasonable. It is up to schools to look at these on a case-by-case basis. Often, though, adjustments for disabled pupils will involve little or no cost or disruption and are therefore very likely to be reasonable for a school to have to make.  Failure to make a reasonable adjustment is a form of discrimination under the Equality Act.

Duties placed on schools

The Equality Act 2010 requires all schools to develop and publish an Accessibility Plan that outlines how they will improve the access to education for disabled pupils over time.

Essex Context

In Essex, we believe that every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and that children are best supported to grow and achieve within their own families. Through changes in national policy, including the Children and Families Act 2014, there is now a focus on collaborative working between schools, families, partner agencies and the LA.

We believe that parents, carers, schools, the local authority, and partners should work together to ensure opportunities for every child and young person to strive for the highest aspirations.

We believe that we must all work towards removing any barriers that may exist to learning and participation that can hinder or exclude child and young people with SEND.

As one of the largest counties in England, Essex supports more pupils than most localities;

  • In Essex, we support 32,345 pupils who require additional and specialist support
  • Our 22 special schools have 3,354 pupils on roll
  • 28,991 pupils with SEND are supported in mainstream settings including 4,925 pupils with an EHC plan.

*School Census 2022

The key features of the Accessibility Strategy are:

Increasing access to the curriculum

Ensuring access to the curriculum is vital in providing equal opportunities to children and young people with SEND. Schools need to consider how to improve the accessibility of the curriculum, covering teaching and learning, trips and visits and after school activities. Schools are responsible for providing a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils and play a key role in planning to increase access to the curriculum for all pupils. Therefore schools are required to have an ‘Accessibility Plan’ that demonstrates what actions the school is taking to increase access to the curriculum, particularly those with SEND. All schools must “use their best endeavours” to provide “high quality teaching that is differentiated and personalised” and which should “meet the individual needs of the majority of children and young people” (SEN Code of Practice 1.24).

The following is considered good practice:

  • Make inclusion and SEND a whole school priority by ensuring there is a member of the governing body, or a sub-committee, with specific oversight arrangements for inclusion, SEN and disability. This should include regular reviews between the headteacher, SENCO and the governing body on how resources are being allocated and the impact of this allocation.
  • Develop a whole school approach that raises the capability of all school staff to teach pupils with SEND in mainstream settings. This approach should ensure all teaching staff understand:
    • their role and responsibilities as teachers of all pupils, including those with special educational needs and/ or disabilities
    • the importance of relationships and wellbeing, with all staff knowing how to signpost pupils to access support
    • how to adapt their teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of individual pupils
    • who to speak to when they have concerns about the progress a pupil is making and feel the pupil may need targeted support.
  • Effectively use the graduated response to SEN support, with the child and family at its heart. SEN support should arise from a four part cycle known as the graduated approach (assess, plan, do, review), through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refined and revised, leading to a growing understanding of the pupil’s needs and of what supports the pupil in making good progress and securing good outcomes.
  • Maintaining high expectations and aspirations, by ensuring all those who teach and support pupils with SEN have the highest aspirations for them, and those who lead and manage provision demonstrate an ambitious vision and plan of action to enable this to happen.

The Ordinarily Available: Inclusive Teaching Framework and Targeted Support provides a guide to support a whole school approach to developing and embedding high quality inclusive teaching and SEN support.

Improving access to the environment

Reasonable adjustments may be needed to ensure equal access to the environment, including the creation of safe spaces, calming areas, and individual workstations. Since September 2012 there has also been a requirement for educational settings to provide auxiliary aids for disabled pupils subject to the Reasonable Adjustment Duty.

Support services from health, social care and education services are available to advise educational settings about suitable and reasonable adaptations to the inside and outside environment to help include pupils with SEND.

Improving access to information

The LA will ensure that appropriate information, advice and support is provided and continually developed for children and young people with SEN and disability and their families. The Essex Local Offer provides information about services available and can be found at   

Information, advice and support is also provided by the SEND Information, Advice and Support Service for both parents and young people.

Schools need to set out on their website, the information about what they provide for pupils with disabilities, including their School Information Report.