41 It is good practice to publicise information directing students to the student support services’ website, but that might not be sufficient. It is good practice to follow up with individual students to ensure that they are accessing and benefiting from the support which is available.
42 Providers should also support their students in developing self-advocacy skills, for example by pointing them towards local services and disabled people’s organisations, so that they have the confidence to know when and how to ask for help, and are able to articulate their needs and concerns.
43 Information about a student’s physical or mental health is “sensitive personal data” and must be stored and used in line with the requirements of Data Protection legislation. (See the Information Commissioner’s guidance.) It is good practice to agree with the student what (if any) information about their disability should be shared and with whom. Reasonable adjustments should be made in line with a student’s request for confidentiality. If the student asks for disclosure of a disability to be kept confidential, for example from academic staff, it should be explained to the student that a likely consequence of this is that reasonable adjustments might have to be provided in an alternative way, that a less effective adjustment is provided, or that appropriate and tailored support cannot be put in place.
44 Providers may need to share information about a student’s impairment with a placement host in order to meet their responsibilities to provide a good quality learning experience through the placement, but they should not do so without the student’s consent. It is good practice to agree with the student what information is to be shared with placement providers, and to put in place a support plan for placements. Providers should discuss practical arrangements for the placement with the student in advance so that potential obstacles can be identified and effective adjustments put in place. It is good practice for the provider to monitor the placement to ensure that the agreed support plan is in place so that the student is able to participate fully in the placement. In some cases, there may be health and safety or safeguarding concerns in relation to a placement opportunity which mean that it is necessary to ask the student to agree to disclose that they are disabled before the placement can be undertaken.
Flexible policies and procedures
45 Providers should be flexible in applying policies and procedures and, when doing so, should ask themselves the following questions:
- 45.1 Is the student disabled?
- 45.2 If so, what provisions (for example, policies and procedures) are we now applying to him or her?
- 45.3 Do these provisions place him or her at a disadvantage?
- 45.4 What could be done to prevent that disadvantage?
- 45.5 Would it be reasonable for us to take those steps?
CASE STUDY 8:
Applying the disability questions
A student’s Head of Department (HoD) writes to a student to say that he is at risk of being withdrawn from his course as a result of poor attendance. The student tells the HoD that he has recently been diagnosed with depression, and provides medical evidence from his doctor. The HoD considers whether the provider’s attendance requirements place the student at a disadvantage as a result of his mental health condition. She decides that they do, having looked at the student’s medical evidence. The HoD decides that it would be reasonable to adjust the normal requirements. She refers the student to student support services so that a support plan can be put in place for him.
Making reasonable adjustments
46 Providers should try to make the design and delivery of their teaching materials as inclusive as possible. If courses and programmes are designed and delivered in consultation with disabled students and disabled people’s organisations, then providers may not need to make as many individual reasonable adjustments for those students.
47 Providers should keep an open mind about what adjustments can be made for a student, and should discuss possible adjustments with him or her. Reasonable adjustments should be made on a case by case basis. Providers should keep a record of any reasonable adjustments made, including whose opinion or advice was obtained, and the reasons for the decisions made.
48 It is good practice to keep adjustments under review and to encourage a student to report any problems or shortfall in support, or change in their condition, and to act on it. However, it is not good practice to insist that the student reapplies for the same adjustments every year unless their condition is likely to fluctuate.
49 Providers should agree with students how best to communicate the student’s agreed support arrangements to the relevant teaching and support staff, to ensure that those arrangements are put in place.
50 If teaching methods change (for example, the course changes from modular assessments and examinations to a final year project), it is good practice to discuss the change with students and for the provider to review the arrangements in place to ensure that they are still appropriate.
51 Providers should consider how to ensure that field trips and other course-related visits are inclusive of all students. Reasonable efforts should be made to enable students to attend wherever possible. Where this is not possible, the provider should consider alternative methods of achieving the learning outcomes. For example, the student may be able to undertake certain aspects of fieldwork in a virtual environment created with samples and photographs.
52 Providers should be alert to any issues arising within the cohort – for example, problems with group work, allegations of bullying - and ensure that appropriate support is put in place for all students involved.
Mitigating (extenuating) circumstances procedures
53 Adjustments should ensure disabled students are assessed on a level playing field with their peers and so that they should not need to make a claim for mitigating (extenuating) circumstances. However, a disabled student may need to make such a claim if, for example:
- 53.1 They experience an acute episode or worsening of their condition which means that the reasonable adjustments in place are no longer sufficient.
- 53.2 There was a shortcoming or failure in the support arrangements, or arrangements were not implemented in time.
54 Extra flexibility may be required where the student’s condition fluctuates. For example, it may not be reasonable to expect the student to produce medical evidence each time they wish to make a claim for mitigating (extenuating) circumstances.
CASE STUDY 9:
Good practice – fluctuating condition
A student has Rheumatoid Arthritis. She has regular flare-ups which are acutely painful and last two or three days. During the flare-ups she is unable to write or type. The provider agrees that she can have extensions to her course work deadlines when her ability to work is affected by a flare-up. It adjusts its usual mitigating circumstances processes so that she is not required to submit medical evidence of her condition each time she requires an extension.
55 In some cases, a student may require additional time to complete assessed work and this will be part of their agreed adjustments. However, in many cases students with appropriate support in place ought not to require routine extensions to deadlines. Those students may still need an extension where there is evidence of a breakdown in support, or an acute episode or worsening of their condition which means that the adjustments in place were not sufficient. In those circumstances, consideration should be given to any knock-on effects such an extension might have on the student’s general work load.
56 Providers should be alert to any fitness to study or fitness to practise concerns and should work with the student to try to overcome concerns. Formal fitness proceedings relating to a student’s mental or physical health should be a last resort.
57 Providers should ensure that students are treated fairly and consistently with students on other courses and in other departments unless there are justifiable (and explained) reasons for treating them differently.
58 It is good practice for providers to have in place an attendance policy setting out its expectations of students. Such a policy helps the provider to monitor a student’s engagement, and to identify any concerns at an early stage. The policy should be sufficiently flexible to take account of students whose attendance is unavoidably affected. Providers should consider whether a specified level of attendance is a competence standard. If a student has poor levels of attendance and support arrangements do not improve this, it may be appropriate to implement support for study procedures.
CASE STUDY 10:
Good practice – application of support for study procedure where there are attendance concerns
The Course Leader for a modern language course notices that a student’s attendance has fallen below the overall attendance rate of 75%. The Course Leader contacts the student’s personal tutor and requests that the tutor arrange a meeting with the student. The personal tutor meets with the student and discusses the student’s poor attendance. The student explains that he has been unwell but is doing his best to attend important lectures. The tutor helps the student to make an appointment with student support services. The student does not attend the appointment with the support service and does not respond to emails from the service, or from the personal tutor. His attendance rapidly deteriorates.
The Programme Leader asks the student to attend an informal meeting under the support for study process to discuss concerns about his fitness to study. A member of the support service attends the meeting with the student and a plan is agreed to support the student to improve his attendance and catch up on the work he has missed. The student makes appointments with his GP and with the provider’s counselling service. He has regular meetings with his personal tutor to review his progress.