Claims of disability discrimination can be bought against public bodies such as early years settings, schools, colleges and local authorities. If the claim against a school was successful, it might be ordered to:

  • Arrange training for school staff
  • Change school policies or guidance
  • Provide extra tuition, to make up for lost learning
  • Provide a written apology
  • Provide trips or other opportunities to make up for activities the child or young person may have missed
  • Make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the pupil’s disability
  • Change the location of lessons or activities within the school
  • Where a child had been refused entry to an independent school in a manner that was discriminatory, the school could be ordered to admit the child or young person
  • If a child was permanently excluded and this was found to be discriminatory, the school could be ordered to re-admit the child or young person.

The following things cannot be ordered:

  • Financial compensation
  • Physical alterations to school buildings
  • The dismissal of a particular staff member

Who can bring a claim?

Not all children or young people with special educational needs will be disabled and not all disabled children or young people will have special educational needs. However, the vast majority are likely to fall under both legal definitions.

A child or young person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities (section 6 of the Equality Act 2010). “Substantial” means more than minor or trivial and “long term” means lasting more than one year or likely to last more than one year. This is a wide definition, and can cover physical or mental health problems, as well as conditions such as dyslexia or autism.

Who can a claim be brought against?

Early years settings, schools, colleges and local authorities have legal duties to prevent unlawful discrimination. They must ensure that they do not treat children and young people with disabilities less favourably than others. They also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments – to change what they do or were proposing to do – to ensure a child or young person is not disadvantaged. This includes the provision of aids and services to support a child or young person.

A claim of disability discrimination against a school of any type (whether state funded or independent), or against a maintained nursery, can be made to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (the “SEND Tribunal”). A claim against a private nursery, a further education college or a local authority would need to be brought in the County Court.

IPSEA only advises on cases which go to the SEND Tribunal, so this section of the site focuses on claims against schools. If you wish to bring a claim in the County Court, you will need to seek advice from a solicitor. You may be able to get legal aid to cover the cost of this – see the page on where to get help for more information.

As a first step, you will need to work out what type of disability discrimination you believe has taken place.