Have you noticed?

From this month, the Disability Discrimination Act comes into force in schools. We will be in breach of our responsibilities if we:

* treat a disabled person less favourably than a non-disabled person for a reason relating to hisher disability, without justification; or

* do not make reasonable adjustment to arrangements for admissions to school or to the provision of education and associated services, without justification, so as to prevent a disabled person from being placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Sounds clear enough, doesn't it? But who qualifies as a "disabled person", what could be cited as "justification" for less favourable treatment, when is an adjustment "reasonable" and how "substantial" does a disadvantage have to be?

As with all new legislation, the answer to these questions will be determined by the courts. Every early case will be a test case - and the respondents will be - you've guessed it - the governing body.

With mainstream schools under increasing pressure to admit pupils with special needs and disabilities, we must make every effort to ensure that inclusion is a genuine and wholehearted process. Balancing the needs of these children and the rest of the school population is yet another challenge for schools and governors.

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