New guidance for Post-16 Education sector on disability

27/06/2007

Key guidance for the post-16 education sector has just been launched - aimed at reducing inequalities experienced by disabled students.

A Code of Practice for those providing post-16 education has been produced by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and follows changes to the law (under the Disability Discrimination Act) last September.

The legal changes mean the sector cannot refuse to provide education to a student simply because they have a disability or long term health condition. For example, if a blind woman is not offered a place on an IT course because the education provider wrongly assumes that blind people cannot use computers then this is likely to be what is legally termed ‘direct discrimination’ and is now unlawful. 

The Code of Practice explains how a number of legal changes introduced last September will impact on post-16 providers and gives examples on how these changes can be put into practice to ensure disabled students are treated fairly.

Launching the Post-16 Code, Sir Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC, said:
“It’s now been clearly established that if we improve educational outcomes in post-16 learning then disabled students have a better chance of getting work. These new duties aim to reduce inequalities and so increase the numbers of disabled people moving into and progressing in the workplace.

“We believe these changes will make a real difference to disabled people’s lives and help institutions build on much of the good work they have been doing in recent years to improve the life chances of disabled people.”

In an analysis of legal casework, the DRC found the most common allegations of disability discrimination were in relation to: teaching practice; exams and assessments; learning support; equipment and materials; outings and trips. Negative experiences in these areas and others may lead to disabled people leaving courses, never completing qualifications and ending up disengaged, disempowered and out of work.

‘The Code of Practice (revised) for providers of post-16 education and related services’ can be downloaded from the DRC’s website at: www.drc.org.uk/library/publications/education/code_of_practice_post_16.aspx. Print versions can be ordered through the Stationery Office. 
Ends

Further information from Alyson Rose in the DRC press office on 0207543 7099.

Notes to Editors
The duties imposed on the majority of post-16 providers changed on 1st September 2006. The changes were a result of an amendment to the DDA (through the Further and Higher Education Regulations 2006) which implemented a European Employment Directive in respect of vocational training in the further and higher education sector.

The Code does not impose legal obligations, nor is it an authoritative statement of the law which is a matter for the courts. It is, however, a ‘statutory’ Code. This means that it has been approved by Parliament and is admissible as evidence in legal proceedings under the DDA. Courts must take into account any part of the Code that appears to them relevant to any question arising in those proceedings. If education providers follow the guidance in the Code it may help to avoid an adverse decision by a court in such proceedings.