Accessibility Strategy 2022 to 2025
Improving the physical environment
Improving the physical environment of schools includes improving physical access to schools as well. All new school buildings must comply with current building regulations and should be physically accessible to all pupils. Much of the work in this area involves improving access to existing buildings.
Schools and other educational settings responsibilities
Improved access to the physical environment can be achieved through reasonable adjustment. Schools do need to consider potential adjustments which may be needed for disabled pupils, as it is likely that any school will have a disabled pupil at some point.
However, schools and settings are not obliged to anticipate and adjust for every imaginable disability and need only consider general reasonable adjustments.
The aim is for all schools and settings to be “broadly accessible.” This means buildings would have a range of features to meet the core special needs associated with physical difficulties, including the following where possible:
- access ramps
- changing facilities
- access to all key curriculum areas
The physical needs of some students (including those with sensory impairments) are very specific and may require specific further adaptations. The Council may be able to assist schools with these, although this will depend on the specific requirements and the feasibility of undertaking such works.
It should be noted that not all works will be feasible or achievable for a specific school.
Head Teachers and Governing bodies have responsibility for the physical accessibility of their schools. Disability discrimination legislation requires schools to plan to improve access for those with disabilities through their ‘accessibility plans'.
Individual schools are required to use devolved budgets, including devolved capital, to ensure that these responsibilities are met, as far as reasonably possible. Any adaptation works to school premises should be designed to comply with Building Regulations.
Buckinghamshire Council responsibilities
Buckinghamshire Council is committed to developing the range of provisions across the county. It recognises that investment in buildings supports improved access to a full curriculum for children and young people with disabilities.
The Council holds a limited budget for capital projects to improve accessibility for individuals or groups of students with SEND, where it is feasible and practical to do so. This enables them to attend a local mainstream school/school of parental choice.
Many specific projects related to pupils are relatively modest in cost, including:
- classroom blinds for a pupil with visual impairment
- classroom sound field system for a pupil with hearing impairment
- wall-mounted adjustable changing bed for a pupil with medical needs
Requests for such specific adaptations to school buildings will be made by health professionals/specialist teachers. They will be set out within the Site Access Report and sent to the Integrated SEND (iSEND) Service.
Requests for specialist equipment for individual students with physical/medical difficulties are made to the iSEND Service via health professionals or specialist teachers. Where approved for education purposes, purchases are fully funded by the council.
Should a pupil require an electric wheelchair solely for school access a referral to the wheelchair service will be made. The service will then assess and determine suitability. Wheelchairs are a health provision even where they are used in an educational setting.
Schools not maintained by Buckinghamshire Council
In the case of schools that it does not maintain (for example, academies, free schools and independent schools), Buckinghamshire Council’s legal obligations to make changes to the physical environment are very limited. The primary obligation for ensuring compliance will fall on the school itself.
However, if requested the Council may consider providing advice, support and/or assistance on a case-by-case basis.
Guidance to schools on accessibility
- The full Building Regulations 2010 legislation can be found online.
- Schools can seek further guidance if required from the Buckinghamshire Council Schools Commissioning team.