Networking: Advisers network for DCD/dyspraxia

A meeting will take place for advisory staff who wish to network, share good practice and resources, consider joint training events and exchange research developments in their local area.

Representatives across LEAs in North and South England, as well as representatives from Wales, Scotland and Ireland, will be meeting in London on 6 July. A small charge towards room hire and lunch will result in a total cost of around £40 per head.

If you work in an advisory capacity and are interested in attending, contact Nichola Jones 01656 720201 or email jonesn@bridgend.gov.uk.

Support for special schools: New national body established

On 10 March 2006 Schools Minister Andrew Adonis announced that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) would provide £150,000 ‘start-up funding’ for the creation of a national representative body for special schools in England. The body will be the first national organisation for the special schools sector and will be set up by the National Association of Non-Maintained and Approved Independent Special Schools (NASS) and the National Association of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulty Schools (NAES). Both of these organisations have well established track records in running special day and residential educational provision. The provision of DfES funding will:

  • enable the collective voice of staff in special schools to be heard at local, regional and national levels
  • help special schools to work more closely with mainstream schools for the inclusion of children with special educational needs (SEN)
  • share best practice on working with children with SEN and disabilities
  • offer additional support and training to special school staff.

Such financial support also highlights the government’s commitment to meeting the needs of children with SEN within a range of settings, as outlined in Removing Barriers to Achievement, and confirms that the closure of all special schools is not, if it ever was, part of its political agenda.

What the DfES press release (2006/0031) regarding this new financial initiative does not point out is that the vast majority of specialist SEN provision operates within local authorities (eg most day special schools) and this will not necessarily be represented by NASS or NAES. This provision is particularly important because it is frequently embedded within local networks of mainstream and special schools/specialist units, where developments in inclusive practice are evolving and taking root.

Resources: Making reasonable adjustments to include pupils with disabilities

The DfES has announced that it is launching a new resource Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in schools and early years settings (see the SEN section of www.teachernet.gov.uk for further information).

The resource is designed to help schools and local authorities implement the reasonable adjustments duty and planning duty by providing:

  • an explanation of the Disability Discrimination Act duties and their relationship to the statutory SEN framework
  • a DVD resource filmed in over 40 schools – illustrating how schools have made reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination against disabled pupils and increase their access to education, together with supporting written materials
  • templates for schools and local authorities for use in reviewing and revising their statutory accessibility plans, which are due for renewal this year
  • guidance for local authorities on increasing access to Early Years settings for very young disabled children.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005 amends the DDA 1995 to introduce a statutory duty on public authorities, including schools and local authorities to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.

Schools and local authorities are required to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination against disabled people
  • eliminate unlawful harassment of disabled people
  • promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.

Under regulations attached to the Act, from December 2006 secondary schools (and from December 2007 primary schools) will need to use their existing mechanisms to demonstrate how they meet the requirement to have a Disability Equality Scheme and action plan:

  • assessing the impact of their activities on equality for disabled people
  • improving outcomes for disabled people
  • monitoring whether outcomes are improving for disabled people
  • using the results of their monitoring.

Disability Discrimination Act for schools and early years settings will indicate the areas in which schools’ accessibility plans and local authorities accessibility strategies can be used to show compliance with the new equality duty.

The Disability Rights Commission is producing a number of non-statutory guidance documents to support the implementation of the Disability Equality Duty. They are working with the Institute of Education to identify the scope of the non-statutory guidance for schools, which the DfES are looking to distribute as an additional section to Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in schools and early years settings in the Autumn. It will also be available at www.drc.org.uk.