The Equality Act and disabled children in school or nursery

by Geraldine Hills. The Equality Act - what this means for children with disabilities in school or nursery.

child blowing bubbles


The Equality Act (EA) requires institutions such as schools and nurseries to make 'reasonable adjustments'. This means putting things in place that make it easier for children with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN) to join in with all the activities of the school/nursery.

Children with disabilities/SEN are entitled to have reasonable adjustments made with regards to admission arrangements or in the provision of education – and services such as school trips – to prevent them being placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Reasonable adjustments must:

  • prevent disabled children being placed at a substantial disadvantage
  • be aimed at all disabled children
  • be anticipatory – i.e. they should be put in place before the child needs them.

Extra information

Schools/nurseries should not wait until a child with disabilities requires the use of their services - they should think in advance about what children with a range of impairments might reasonably need. This would apply to children who have a visual impairment, hearing impairment, mobility impairment or a learning disability.

Schools/nurseries must also make reasonable adjustments to policies, practices and procedures that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled children to join in the full life of the school/nursery.

Under the Equality Act, admission arrangements and other policies must be fair and must not unfairly disadvantage (either directly or indirectly) a child with a disability or special educational needs.

It is important that you get information on the Equality Act and what this means for children with disabilities. Free guides to the Equality Act are available on the internet.

The Equality Act can be a bit overwhelming but just knowing the basics can go a long way to understanding the duties schools and nurseries have to children with a disability - and the role parents and carers can play in supporting teachers.

How to make a magic moment

Providing access to the Something Special web pages is a great way for a school to make a 'reasonable adjustment' for a child with disabilities.

There are many ideas on these web pages that encourage participation for whole-class activities thus promoting inclusion and creating magic moments for all!

Your child's teacher could also click through to the CBeebies iPlayer and search for recent episodes of Something Special to play out a time that suits.

You could also use the iPlayer at home to watch the show with your child. And why not try out some of the fun activities on the website - there are games, songs, clips, stories, as well as Makaton signs to print out.

How CBeebies can help

Whether you're a mum, dad, grandparent, teacher or any other type of carer, the Something Special web pages are such a great way to get involved with your child.

Watch some clips together and have a go at signing with Justin. Or you could print out some of the Makaton signs and display them in your child's bedroom. Don't forget to take anything thing that your child does at home into school (perhaps they coloured in a picture of Mr Tumble) and update your child's teacher with any significant things your child does (e.g. had a go at signing or saying a new word).

Something Special is suitable for all young children - not just children with disabilities – so siblings can also enjoy using the website.

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Expert opinion

If your child has been discriminated against, then you need to stay calm and gather any information which may be necessary if you end up having to make a claim against the school.

If it turns out you were wrong - or maybe the school has admitted it has discriminated against your child but is willing to apologise and rectify the situation - then it will be difficult to work with the school if you have been aggressive or verbally abusive to staff.

Geraldine Hills, Special educational needs and disability consultant Inclusive Choice

Top tips

  • Get a basic understanding of the Equality Act.Always expect school/nurseries to be able to tell you what reasonable adjustments they have or are going to make.Be prepared to listen - don't just get angry as the school/nursery may not be aware that they are discriminating against your child.Get involved! Offer your support to the school/nursery.Focus on what is working - and build on that.

Parent's tale

My son's nursery left him behind when the rest of his group went to the park to see a puppet show. My son has learning difficulties and the staff said later that they felt there was that there was no point in taking him as he would not have understood the show, and might have been afraid of the puppets.

This could be considered less favourable treatment by the nursery towards the child. A number of reasonable adjustments could have been made:

Puppets played with in advance of the visit - to familiarise the boy with puppets.

Using puppets and props to act out the story before the visit.

Visiting the park beforehand to familiarise the child with the surroundings.

At the visit itself, deploying staff so that the boy was in a small group with some of the children he knew best.

Geraldine, From Manchester

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