Don't make me go nuclear

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Following a routine safety audit, three of my radioactive sources, including a small amount of plutonium, were declared to be passed their "experiment by" date. Thus I must dispose of them and will probably do so with help from my friends at the Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre.

I did moot the idea, jokingly I must stress, that we put the plutonium up on the internet auction site eBay ("will ship internationally") to see what happened.

When I did go on to eBay, it was to buy an Italian phrasebook and accompanying CD because the Steeles are off to Sirmione on Lake Garda this summer. We had intended to go to Lanzarote but hit an unexpected snag. One of our number has limited mobility and no member of the travel industry was willing to guarantee a ground-floor room in a hotel without a lift. A small thing to ask for, you would think, but apparently nobody could grant the request.

Having been at an in-service day talk on disability, I knew that here there was legislation I could have used to get what we wanted. While the aforementioned talk was about the "reasonable adjustments" the law requires a school to make to accommodate a pupil with a disability, the principle applied to most other situations.

Are you a manager in a school? Do you have a member of staff with limited mobility? Have you made any "reasonable adjustments"? Here are some examples.

When giving your disabled teacher a "please take", are the classes sent to the teachers' room, or are please takes arranged so that the teacher in question does not have far to walk to get to the cover room?

Similarly, if registration classes are not always in staff members' regular rooms, is care taken not to lumber someone with an extra 100-metre walk when that could make the difference between a day of pain and a day of relative comfort?

And disabled bays . . . I could go on, with justification, about the misuse of disabled parking, for hours. If I hear the "only for a minute" argument again, I will probably go off like a plutonium bomb myself. Does your school have any bays, and if so, are they taken seriously?

I could tell you the legal definition of disability and it does not involve "having something awkward to carry" or "being a member of the senior management team so I should get to park near the front door". Yet I know that this thoughtlessness happens.

It is quite correct that health and safety checks are carried out on dangerous substances and that action is taken to protect pupils and staff from any hazards. It is equally correct that a disabled person's life should not be made more difficult than it already is.

See to it. Now.

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