What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments are ways in which a setting might change how they operate in some way to enable a child to attend.
Early Years settings must promote equality of opportunity and not discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children. Settings must not discriminate:
- directly or indirectly
- for a reason arising in consequence of a disability
- by failing to make a reasonable adjustment
Settings must make reasonable adjustments to make sure that disabled children are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to their peers. This includes adjustments to any provision, criteria or practice, making physical alterations and providing auxiliary aids and services.
The duty requires settings to think ahead and consider what adjustments they may need to make so that disabled children can be included as fully as possible.
Some simple reasonable adjustments could include:
- giving a child a safe space to go when they become anxious or over stimulated; this can be a pop-up tent or allocated space.
- training staff so they have an understanding of autism.
- allowing a child with cystic fibrosis to have a high-sugar snack at break time due to them needing a high calorie diet, even though it's the setting policy that fruit should be eaten at snack times.
- the position of the story corner being changed so that a child with a hearing impairment is able to see the practitioners face better due to the light from a window.
Making reasonable adjustments is a continuing duty - not a one-off. Adjustments need to be reviewed and over time may need to be changed.
It's an offence to charge for a reasonable adjustment to be made and it's the settings responsibility to make adjustments that are reasonable. Under the Equality Act 2010 there's no justification for failing to make a reasonable adjustment.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 applies to all settings in the Early Years sector including schools, pre-schools, family centres, private, voluntary, independent providers and childminders. The duties cover all providers of early education and childcare, whether or not they're in receipt of government funding.
It's important to recognise that the Early Years provider or the registered body has a responsibility for making sure that disabled children are not discriminated against. Anyone working in a setting could expose it to a claim of discrimination, such as a volunteer or any member of staff. Therefore it's important to make sure all those working with children understand that reasonable adjustments must be made for children to meet their needs to enable them to access the setting of their choice.
It's good practice for a child with individual needs to have an Early Help Assessment (EHA) and to establish if the family have a named social worker or any other agencies working with them. Establishing relationships with parents and involving them at every step is the most beneficial way to work for everyone.