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Schools and disability discrimination for pupils who stammer

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This page applies to England, and as regards the Equality Act to Scotland and Wales.
Last updated 30th September 2012.

Schools are subject to the Equality Act 2010. Separately, rules on special educational needs (SEN) also apply, and it may be worth getting a child who stammers onto the SEN register (in England) if possible. Do also look at the British Stammering Association’s resources on stammering and education: below BSA resources.

Special educational needs (SEN)

This provides a framework which can support the education of children who stammer. It may well be worth getting a child who stammers on the special educational needs register, even though he or she is not statemented. However, tribunal claims in respect of the SEN framework are not normally relevant as regards stammering. See Special educational needs.

Equality Act

The Equality Act applies to schools in England, Wales and Scotland. The reasonable adjustment duty has now been extended to include provision of auxiliary aids and services (as from September 2012). Unlike with the SEN framwork, disputes can be taken to a tribunal. More: Equality Act in schools.

For offical guidance on the Equality Act and schools, see Equality Act in schools: Links.

Resolving disputes

Nearly always, any issues will be involved informally. British Stammering Association resources are very useful, and it also has an education helpline. As regards legal enforcement, any tribunal claims will normally need to be under the Equality Act, rather than the SEN framework. However, the tribunal cannot award financial compensation. See Resolving disputes in schools.

Examining boards

Examining boards for exams such as GCSEs and A-levels are also subject to the Equality Act.

Furthermore, the school’s duty to make reasonable adjustments can include negotiating special arrangements for disabled pupils who are taking exams.

BSA resources

The British Stammering Association has resources on stammering and schools. See In education (stamma.org) for parents and young people, and Teachers (stamma.org).

BSA’s older resources include:

More on schools

Bullying

Specifically on stammering, see the BSA resources for parents or teachers: BSA: Education page.

More generally there is Bullying at school on (gov.uk) which includes further links.

Bullying or other harassment by teachers related to disability should of course be unlawful under the Equality Act.

However, most bullying will be by other pupils. Schools should take measures to prevent bullying. Does a school have Equality Act obligations though to take steps against bullying by other pupils? Its obligations are limited according to para 1.7 of Equality Act 2010: Advice for school leaders, school staff, governing bodies and local authorities (pdf). However, it may be arguable that a school’s failure to act against bullying is unwanted conduct creating a hostile environment, and thus unlawful harassment: see in an employment context Harassment by third parties>Alternative ways to claim.

Education authorities being sued for negligence

There have been cases of education authorities being sued for damages in negligence for not meeting the needs of children with, say, dyslexia. A House of Lords case on dyslexia is Phelps v Hillingdon Council.

Human Rights Act 1998

The European Convention on Human Rights, having effect in the UK through the Human Rights Act, is likely to give rights in relation to education and stammering (Scope of European Convention rights). However, normally any rights under the Equality Act and special educational needs regime should be sufficient.

A situation where the European Convention may be useful is if a school argues that a child’s stammer is not serious enough to amount to a ‘disability’ within the Equality Act (see Disability under Article 14>Boundaries of what falls within Article 14…).

Employment

The employment provisions of the Equality Act apply to schools as to other employers. For examples of people who stammer who have gone into teaching, see Examples of jobs done by people who stammer: Teacher / lecturer.

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