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Make ready for disability law

Few schools are clued up on the new Act which provides for pupils with special needs. Michael Shaw reports

COULD a primary school refuse to admit an epileptic pupil because he occasionally requires rectal Valium and teachers fear accusations of molestation if they administer it?

The answer is no, and under legislation which comes into place next term the school could be taken to a tribunal and accused of discrimination if it attempted to bar him.

The scenario is one of a series based on real-life situations which the charity Disability Equality in Education is using to show teachers how to satisfy the requirements of the 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001.

From September, schools can be taken to tribunals if they fail to allow a disabled child to participate fully in all aspects of school life, including play time and school trips.

Richard Rieser, director of the DEE, said that only a few schools appeared to be informed about the Act. "The vast majority of schools and local education authorities are not prepared at all," he said.

Cerebral palsy charity Scope is holding a conference in London on Tuesday to discuss how schools can prepare for the legislation.

Caroline Cooke, Scope's acting manager for research and public policy, said: "Scope does have concerns that awareness is not filtering through to some schools - but this will change in the coming months and will be further improved by the joint work of the Department for Education and Skills and the Disability Rights Commission."


Questions 1. A nursery school has a policy of not taking children until they are toilet-trained. A child is turned away because he is incontinent as a result of an impairing condition, and requires nappies.

2. A primary pupil cannot get out of her wheelchair independently, yet wants to take part in activities on the floor. Her mother comes in to help her, but complains that the visits prevent her getting a job.

3. Two boys who use wheelchairs wish to go to a secondary school which has seven floors. The school says it cannot accept them as the lifts are shut during fires and they cannot guarantee their safety.


1. Yes. The nursery would have to change its policy. In the real case staff agreed it was not unreasonable to change the disabled child's nappies because they had to clear up after "accidents" when children went to the toilet.

2. Probably not. But teachers and LSAs could have manual handling training to help the girl out of her wheelchair.

3. Yes. In a real case a fire officer visited the building and agreed it was safe to admit the boys as there were several fire doors on each level. The school also introduced evacuation chairs.

Source: Disability Equality in Education 'Inclusion in Schools Coursebook', 2002

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