Planning improvements for disabled pupils' access to education: guidance for education authorities, independent and grant-aided schools

Guidance to support responsible bodies in the development and maintenance of accessibility strategies.

Chapter 5: Procedures for independent and grant-aided schools

1. This Chapter outlines issues to be considered by independent and grant-aided schools [40] in preparing accessibility strategies. The report [41] published in 2003 by ( HMIE) and the Disability Rights Commission ( DRC) highlighted good practice in preparing accessibility strategies. That advice remains relevant and is incorporated in the following paragraphs. Schools [42] will also find useful advice contained in the Handbook on Accessibility [43] published by the Scottish Council for Independent Schools and available as a free download.

2. Responsible bodies are required to prepare and implement accessibility strategies. The responsible body in relation to independent and grant-aided schools, is the proprietor or the managers respectively (see Chapter 2, paragraph 4).


3. Schools have considerable experience of strategic planning. For example, they are used to developing school improvement plans or school development plans. They are free to develop their accessibility strategy as an independent, stand-alone document, or to incorporate it into another school planning document. However, where an accessibility strategy is incorporated into another plan, it should still be clear, easily identifiable and extractable as an accessibility strategy within that plan so that it is available for reference.

4. The accessibility strategy has to be prepared to a cover a period of 3 years from date of completing the immediately previous strategy.

5. One person, such as the head teacher or head of learning support, may be given the lead in taking the strategy forward. Depending on the size of the school, the responsible body may wish to consider setting up a small planning group to devise the strategy, arrange consultation and ensure that the strategy is implemented and reviewed.

Stages in preparing strategies

6. The flow chart at Appendix G outlines the stages in preparing accessibility strategies.

Planning group

7. It is up to the individual school to decide who might have a role to play in the planning group. The planning group may, for example, involve a teacher, someone involved in learning support, the head teacher/principal, a member of the board of management, the bursar/finance manager or someone with responsibility for the school estate. The group may also include representative parents, health professionals or voluntary sector organisations. The planning group should meet regularly during the period when the strategy is being prepared. Once the strategy is in place, the group should continue to meet probably at least two or three times each year to take forward implementation and review progress.

Audit/review of accessibility

8. Schools will have carried out audits of accessibility since the Act came into force in 2002. HMIE inspection reports on schools provide evidence of accessibility, in general, which will inform schools' accessibility strategies. In addition schools are likely to have audited accessibility directly themselves using their own specifically designed audit tools, How good is our school? [44] , The Child at the Centre [45] for early years provision or some of the publications listed in Chapter 2 paragraphs 21-23 in terms of physical accessibility. Where school buildings have listed building status responsible bodies will require to be clear about what scope they have for making physical alterations.

9. As part of their audit process schools will have sought the views of key stakeholders.

Consulting with key stakeholders

10. Consultation with key stakeholders is an important part of the audit process because it provides evidence of their views of accessibility. The key stakeholders to be considered are the service providers, the service users and, any relevant third sector organisations (who may be providers and may also represent service users).

11. Schools will consult with their own staff and with disabled and non-disabled pupils, and their parents, taking a proactive approach to ensure that the diversity of children's additional support needs is addressed. In some cases, particularly where the school is a special school, it may be necessary to involve outside agencies such as social work services and health professionals in the consultation as well as particular third sector organisations. Schools are in the best position to decide how widely they should consult. The aim should be to have a consultation process that is proportionate and not over burdensome for the school but yet enables the key stakeholders' voices to be heard and taken account of.

Drafting the strategy

12. Appendix C includes a template of suggested headings which could be included in an accessibility strategy. Quality is more important than quantity in drafting an accessibility strategy and the focus should be on outcomes such as what will be improved as a result of the strategy, rather than producing a lengthy document. When they start to draft the strategy, the planning group should have information about all the barriers or potential barriers to participation for disabled pupils.

13. The accessibility strategy should [46] :

  • be about actual outcomes
  • have a strategic focus - with a manageable and meaningful number of key outcomes, supported by robust measures
  • be evidence-based
  • demonstrate effective collaboration with key stakeholders
  • be capable of delivery - it should show a clear line of sight to supporting plans and activities including the necessary resources to deliver the outcomes, as required by the Act
  • promote continuous improvement - it should identify any further work needed to deliver improved services

Setting targets

14. The targets in the strategy should be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-related- so that it is clear what outcomes will be achieved and when.

Further consultation/finalise strategy

15. Schools should consult as widely as possible on their draft strategies, especially if they have carried out a limited initial consultation. Information about reasons why certain improvements have been made a priority and why other proposals may have not been included should be outlined in the accessibility strategy. This will assist those who are being consulted (or who may be reading the strategy after it has been finalised) in understanding why certain proposals have been prioritised above others.

16. Head teachers need to ensure that parents and others are aware that the accessibility strategy will not necessarily bring forward major changes overnight, but instead will lead to a gradual programme of longer-term improvements.

17. Schools should involve all their staff, not just teaching staff, and should remember to consult a wide range of pupils. This should not only be disabled pupils as those who are not disabled may also have views and relevant ideas to contribute. Similarly, the school should seek to involve a wide range of parents and carers, not only those who have disabled children or those who are always involved in school activities.

18. It is important that staff are not just told about the strategy, but that they are able to give their views at this stage. This should ensure that everyone 'buys into' the strategy, which is vital in the case of school staff who will have to implement many of the changes and ensure that these are effective. The planning group must be prepared to revise the draft strategy in light of the consultation exercise.

19. Consultation might be in the form of an open meeting or meetings/seminars to discuss the strategy, focus groups, a written or web consultation asking for comments on the strategy or ad hoc telephone calls and small discussions, asking for advice on particular points. The group should ensure that any consultation is accessible to everyone with an interest, including pupils or parents with disabilities or those from minority ethnic backgrounds, where, for example, English is not their first language. Therefore, special arrangements should be in place to support those pupils or parents who may otherwise find it difficult to give their views.


20. Once the strategy has been prepared and revised as necessary following consultation, it then needs to be implemented. It is for schools to decide how implementation will be progressed and monitored but it is most likely that a member of staff within the school will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategy.


21. Strategies should be readily available preferably on the school's website. As discussed in Chapter 2 (paragraph 14) strategies must be made available in alternative formats if requested.


22. The planning/implementation group will need to review the strategy at regular intervals during its lifespan but, at a minimum, the planning group should meet formally once every year to review progress in implementing the strategy. If necessary, the accessibility strategy may need to be revised following a review. Revisions may be needed, for example, if certain expected improvements are found not to have been successful and a different approach is needed, or where changing circumstances mean that a new priority emerges.

23. Towards the end of the three year period the group will evaluate how successful the strategy has been. The evaluation should include an assessment of whether the targets have been met and also whether there has been a qualitative improvement in access to education for disabled pupils. The group should also ask stakeholders, such as school staff, pupils and parents to evaluate progress which has been made.

24. This evaluation should give the school a clear picture of what has worked well, what has not worked well and where further improvements are needed, with the reasons why. This information should then form the basis of the development of the accessibility strategy for the following three year period. The school should then go through a similar process of consultation in developing the next strategy. The next strategy should start immediately after the previous one ends.

Possible checklist for preparing and implementing an accessibility strategy

Planning group set up/individuals to take the lead identified

Decisions taken as to how and where the accessibility strategy will fit into other planning frameworks and delivery plans

Audit carried out of existing accessibility of provision

Initial consultation with schools and experts carried out

Early discussions held with other agencies and organisations about joint improvements which might be taken forward

Short, medium and long-term priorities identified and accessibility strategy drafted

Sources of funding identified for taking forward measures identified in the strategy

Goals and targets set for progress during the period of the strategy

Any further consultation carried out with a wide range of interested groups

Arrangements made for implementing the strategy

Accessibility strategy finalised and placed on school website

Progress monitored and reviewed regularly, with the strategy revised where necessary

Progress evaluated towards the end of the period of the strategy in order to inform the priorities for the next accessibility strategy


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