Clause 14 - Accessibility Strategies and Plans

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment) (Employment and Equal Opportunities) 3:45 pm, 29th March 2001

Our Secretary of State has been incredibly successful in securing resources for that and for other aspects. We are proud to have £220 million to spend during the coming three years on school access. I do not wish to bring politics into the arena, but we shall be spending 10 times as much on accessibility to school buildings as was spent in the last year of the previous Government. I can tell the hon. Member for Daventry that we could help future Secretaries of State in their negotiations with the Treasury. In guidance, we could underpin the duty to plan with a note that the plan should include the planning body's analysis of the costs. That might support the negotiations that would need to take place with the Treasury.

I can tell the several members of the Committee who have raised the subject that the recently published ``Within Reach'' report has given us a helpful steer. It will assist our continuing evaluation of the schools access initiative.

It might help if hon. Members understood some distinctions. Within the context of reasonable adjustments that restrict or inform schools' duties, schools will not be required to make adjustments for physical features when they deal with individual children who want to exercise their rights under disability discrimination legislation. The physical adjustments will come through the planning duty on LEAs. That is part of the increasing accessibility over time that is tied in with our plans.

My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak referred to the sort of measures that schools will have to take. They will include adjusting timetabling of disabled students' lessons, ensuring that those who use wheelchairs have their lessons on the ground floor and do not have to go to the top floor if there is no lift, and ensuring that library books are brought to them if the library is inaccessible.