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Vice Chancellors and College Principals fail to make the grade

A level students may not be the only people demanding that their papers are remarked. Vice Chancellors and College Principals recently proved themselves to be good sports but not so hot on the new Disability Discrimination Act Part 4: Education in a Skill quiz, www.skill.org.uk/dda_quiz, on the new civil rights legislation.

The lowest score was a poor 55% and the highest a very suspicious 100%! There was particular confusion about the anticipatory duty of the new law. This means that institutions must carry out, in advance, reasonable adjustments that they could anticipate needing to make for future disabled students. Another highlighted area of uncertainty was over who ultimately decides what adjustments are 'reasonable' to make for disabled students. In fact, judges, not the governing body of institutions, will make these decisions.

Skill is encouraging other members of staff at institutions to try out the quiz to see if they can do better than their bosses.

And there's also pressure from the top for institutions to do well in the quiz. Margaret Hodge, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education, recently said in reference to Skill's quiz, "I hope Vice Chancellors, admission officers and tutors are by now fully aware of the requirements as laid out by the new disability legislation covering education. They should therefore all be able to answer these questions correctly."

Barbara Waters, Skill's Chief Executive, said, "At Skill, we recognised that it can be quite difficult to get to grips with the new law so we have been looking for innovative ways to increase understanding. A quiz offers a more interactive and fun way to learn about the law. At a recent Skill conference we also staged a mock trial under the new law to bring the reality of the law home to delegates. The new law is so important that every effort must be made to ensure that it is well understood."

Details of other resources that Skill is offering to anyone who needs to understand the new law are available at www.skill.org.uk/shared/dda_resources.htm.

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For more information, contact Liz Victor, Tel: 0207 450 0643, Email: lizv@skill.org.uk.


Notes for Editors

1. Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities gives information and advice to thousands of disabled students every year on how to maximise their experiences in education (higher and further), volunteering, training, and employment. The Skill information service is open from Monday to Thursday, 1:30pm to 4:30pm, on 0800 328 5050 (voice) or 0800 068 2422 (text). Extensive information is publicly available on Skill's website: www.skill.org.uk. Skill also advises government policy makers and disseminates good practice through publications, conferences and professional networks. Skill is a registered charity with offices in London, Belfast and Edinburgh.

2 When the Government introduced the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 it amended Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to remove the exemption of education and introduced the new Part 4 (Education).
The post-16 sections of the Act apply to the following responsible bodies in England, Wales and Scotland:
- higher and further education institutions
- local education authorities and education authorities providing adult and community education
- youth services (except voluntary groups)
- other 'designated' institutions (including special further education residential colleges)
There are two main requirements of the law for 'responsible bodies':
1. Responsible bodies must not treat a disabled person 'less favourably' than a non disabled person for reasons related to his/her disability without 'justification'.
2. Responsible bodies will be required by law to make 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure that a disabled student is not placed at a 'substantial disadvantage'.

3. A longer version of Skill's quiz on the Disability Discrimination Act Part 4: Education is available at www.skill.org.uk/dda_quiz for people to test their knowledge on.


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