“Reasonable Adjustments” – what are they?

“Reasonable Adjustments” – what are they?

Reasonable adjustments are changes that schools, places of employment, and other places have to make to include people with disabilities in day-to-day life. In schools, this means to will help pupils with disabilities to have the same opportunities as their peers.

What can a reasonable adjustment be?

A reasonable adjustment can be any number of things, from providing specialised equipment to giving extra time or support to do certain tasks, or changing some rules slightly to make them more inclusive. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out what would count as a reasonable adjustment and how to support a pupil through them. For example, a reasonable adjustment could be allowing a child to use a tablet with a text-to-speech function in class to allow easier communication – this is a relatively small change for the school but could go a long way towards ensuring that child is able to engage with the class fully and have similar opportunities to their classmates.

Who needs reasonable adjustments?

Some people can be concerned that reasonable adjustments will make school unfair as they give one pupil an ‘advantage’. It is important to remember that reasonable adjustments only apply to people with disabilities, and are individually decided with the school to ensure that it removes a disadvantage, rather than adding an advantage. For a child with speech and communication difficulties, reasonable adjustments will help the pupil communicate with their peers and teachers easier, giving them a school experience that is more similar to their classmates. Sometimes schools can be reluctant to provide reasonable adjustments in case every pupil demands them, but they only apply to pupils with disabilities and they are designed individually with each pupil and their families to suit what that pupil needs.

What schools have to provide reasonable adjustments?

All of them! It does not matter if a school is a state school or gets funding from other sources, it is still legally required to provide support for pupils with disabilities under the Equality Act 2010. This also applies from pre-schools right the way up to university.

How can we get reasonable adjustments for my child?

The first step should be to talk to the school about what they would be prepared to do – they may have other pupils in the school with similar needs or have plans in place already. If these plans would not suit your child or the school are not as helpful as they could be, you can come up with a plan yourself to ask the school to support them. To come up with a plan, think of what your child finds difficult, what might help that, and how the school can support them. It doesn’t need to be complicated – it could even just be your child requiring extra time to complete certain exercises, or needing the teachers to speak more clearly. Here are some websites with good resources on many different reasonable adjustments:

Dyslexia Action have information on reasonable adjustments for reading.

The National Autistic Society also have information on adjustments for children with autism.

Disability Rights UK have general information on adjustments in schools.

When coming up with a plan for your child, do not worry about the cost of any specialist equipment (such as text-to-speech equipment), as the school are required to cover the cost, although this means it remains their property and they will keep it when the child leaves the school. The school should also be prepared to change some of their regulations, like the use of electronic devices in school, to allow your child to learn. The school must also provide staff members who are able to support your child, including sign interpreters or staff trained in AAC methods. These adjustments are also not set in stone and can be changed as your child grows up and develops, or even if you find that certain things aren’t as helpful as you thought they would be. At this stage it’s also really helpful to ask your child what they think might help them if they are able to tell you – they may have different answers than you think!

My child’s school says my requested adjustment isn’t ‘reasonable’?

The interpretation of “reasonable adjustments” is open, however there are several things you can do to try to get your child’s school to get on board. Firstly, consider the adjustments you have requested – if they put other children at risk, or would interfere with other children’s education in a way that the school can’t minimise, then you may have to compromise with the school. If the adjustments involve very expensive equipment or extra staff members, the school may be concerned about funding this – this is up to the school and local council to deal with, and there are funds available for this.

If the school remain unsupportive, you may want to remind them of their legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010:

The Act makes it unlawful for the responsible body of a school to discriminate
against, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil:
– in relation to admissions,
– in the way it provides education for pupils,
– in the way it provides pupils access to any benefit, facility or service, or
– by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment.

The Equality Act 2010 and Schools, from the Department of Education

If a school refuse to provide reasonable adjustments to a pupil, they could be breaching the law and face legal action. Even if they believe they are providing education in a “fair” way by not providing an adjustment, if your child would have to leave the school as a result of the lack of adjustment, it is possible the school is effectively excluding them.

You may want to find evidence of other children receiving the same supports as you have requested for your child – many families have shared their stories online and if you can show that another school has allowed specific adjustments, your child’s school may agree to them.

You can also get in touch with organisations who have experience speaking to schools about these adjustments, such as us! We may be able to support you in engaging with your child’s school, so please feel free to send us an email using our contact form.

If your child’s school remains unsupportive, you may wish to get a legal expert’s opinion as to whether it would be considered discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The Govan Law Centre have an Education Law Unit who specialise in issues like this and could suggest legal options.

Every child has the right to an education, and every school has the responsibility to try to fulfil that.

Further reading:

The Equality Act: What schools need to know  – SecEd

Reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils – Equality and Human Rights Commission

Reasonable Adjustments for Disabled Pupils: A Practical Guide – Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors