SEN matters: Failure to make reasonable adjustments is the new “negligence”

Insight (p7), November 2014, in the third of a series, Sarah McKimm, Principal Solicitor at IPSEA, the leading legal advice charity for parents of children with SEN and disabilities, outlines how schools need to embrace a broader view of “reasonable adjustments”

If a pupil has a disability, “failure to make reasonable adjustments” is the new “negligence” action when it comes to litigation. For example, a girl with diabetes is not allowed to go on the annual residential school trip with her friends; a socially awkward boy is teased and tormented by other pupils; another is constantly in trouble with staff for never being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.

This involves a change of thinking by schools. When assessing the risk of disability discrimination claims, schools tend to focus on learning support and access arrangements for examinations. However, the issues which drive parents to litigation at the moment typically arise from failures of pastoral care which cause or allow a child to come to harm or become distressed.

So, what “reasonable steps” do tribunals typically expect schools to take to support pupils with disabilities? See more in issue 3 of Insight (p7)