Certain individual pupils may have a disability which requires specific improvements to a building or site in order to meet their needs and thus enable full access to the school and its facilities.
As part of their accessibility strategy and planning duties, local authorities, maintained school governing bodies and academy trusts must increase access to the curriculum for disabled pupils and improve the physical environments in schools in ways that assist disabled pupils.
Such improvements can cost thousands of pounds and may be beyond the resource of schools to fund. The Schools Access Initiative seeks to make improvements to schools that meet the requirements of the Equality Act and the authority therefore usually allocates a dedicated annual budget to undertake such projects.
The scheme covers community, controlled and foundation schools. In addition, where works are required to address the specific needs of a pupil with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) held by Derbyshire, the scheme has been extended to VA schools and academies.
Proposals to make adaptations to schools funded from the SAI budget are considered by an inter-disciplinary officer group with the highest priority being given to meet the current identified educational needs of disabled pupils. These individual needs are normally identified via the appropriate county specialist support teams or via the county Education Psychology service. In considering proposals, the inter-disciplinary officer group uses the following guidance provided by the Department for Education (DfE):
Criteria for support - guidance to local authorities
When considering which school or schools to select for the Schools Access Initiative, the local authority should look at the capacity of each school to take advantage of the access improvements and the availability of accessible provision across the authority, the school's special educational needs (SEN) policies and their teaching practices and ethos. It may also wish to consider the degree to which facilities may be used by a wider community. Projects should seek to improve mainstream education in one or more of the following ways:
- Enhanced continuation of access across nursery, primary and secondary phases in the local area.
- Reduced home to school travel time for pupils by making a local school accessible.
- Improved physical access to the school - this may include setting down and picking up points, ramps, handrails and lifts and improvements to escape provisions.
- Improved physical movement around the building, including adaptations for sensory disability such as improved colour schemes and access to social areas such as dining rooms.
- Improved access to the national curriculum, including specialist furniture such as desks, rise and fall tables, sinks, ovens and information and IT equipment - both hardware and software.
- Improved accommodation within the building including toilets for disabled pupils, medical rooms and sound proofing for pupils with hearing disabilities.
- Projects should contribute to the local authority's overall strategy for increasing access and inclusion for pupils with special educational needs.
SAI project design and construction
Once a proposal for SAI funding has been agreed by the inter-disciplinary officer group, it is passed to corporate Property to commission a feasibility design. This is then shared with the school and the appropriate support service. Subject to the agreement of all parties, the proposal is then costed and funding approval sought. Following approval, the work is procured and managed by corporate Property.
The SAI Fund is managed by Fiona Mosley, Assistant Education Officer, Children’s Services Development. For further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org