Inclusion matters

1st May 2004 at 01:00

In April schools in England came to the end of their first year of their three-year statutory plan for disability accessibility while schools in Wales are beginning the first year.

The aim is to ensure that pupils with disabilities are not discriminated against. Schools must be ready to receive pupils with disabilities. They cannot wait until one appears.

They are required to make "reasonable adjustments" but only the courts can determine what this means. Rejigging the timetable, or moving lessons for classes with disabled youngsters, or providing individual lessons, or using closed-circuit TV are all worth considering. Schools can choose the arrangements so long as accessibility is achieved. Health and safety - particularly safety during a fire alarm - must be carefully assessed and planned.

Pupils with hearing difficulties and visual impairment must be catered for.

Signage, marked pathways, and classroom reorganisation are important. Most schools will have to budget for building alterations too. Staff should be made aware of how to manage pupils with particular disabilities and how to change their teaching methods to suit. Schools should also note that what applies to pupils also applies to staff.

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