Too frightened to declare a disability

9th January 2009 at 00:00
Just 2 in 5 teachers with handicaps would feel confident about telling a new employer and 1 in 5 conceal their conditions at job interviews

Less than half of teachers would feel confident about disclosing a disability to a new school or college employer, a poll suggests.

Just 40 per cent of teachers said they would not be worried about informing a new employer of disabilities and long-term illnesses, a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has found.

One in five teachers said they had hidden their disability at interview for fear that discrimination would prevent them getting the job.

More than 80 per cent of the 254 disabled and non-disabled respondents said their school or college had disabled students. But just over 40 per cent were aware of having colleagues with a disability.

Fewer than 10 per cent were aware of disabled staff holding senior management or head-of-year posts.

In the survey, "disability" included long-term health conditions such as epilepsy and cancer, mental health problems and specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.

More than half of disabled teachers who responded said that disabled people faced considerable prejudice in Britain.

In schools, discrimination is often caused by ignorance or insensitivity, particularly in relation to hidden disabilities such as mental health problems, the ATL said.

Complaints from disabled staff included unfair removal of responsibilities and use of designated parking places by colleagues.

Only 12 per cent of those polled said they had witnessed discrimination first hand.

More than half said their school had made adjustments to accommodate those with disabilities. But almost 90 per cent said they had been carried out for the benefit of students, while just over half said they had been done for staff.

Mary Bousted, the ATL's general secretary, said: "I am horrified to hear about the discrimination against disabled staff taking place in some of our schools and colleges. There is absolutely no excuse for it.

"Discrimination against disabled staff sets a poor example for pupils. Disabled pupils seem to be being treated fairly well, but there is clearly still room for improvement."

The survey also highlighted a lack of training on the issue; three- quarters of staff said they had not received any. A similar number said their workplace either did not have a plan to promote equality for disabled people or were unaware if there was one.

This is despite the Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 which compels public bodies to promote equality for disabled people.

Dr Bousted said that schools and colleges needed to do more to ensure they were complying with disability equality legislation and treating staff and pupils fairly.


Teachers reported a wide range of problems facing disabled staff in schools and colleges, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' poll found.

These included inadequate lifts, which restricted access to buildings.

One teacher with multiple sclerosis was reportedly forced to stay downstairs in the school's learning support unit because the lifts were not big enough to accommodate her scooter. A colleague said she was treated "like a second-class citizen".

A disabled music teacher from Rochdale said: "Frequently people park in the clearly designated parking spaces, meaning I have further to walk into school."

A number of staff with depression complained that headteachers were unsympathetic to their condition.

Others had been told they would not have been hired if their disability had been known, or had missed promotion because of their disability.

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