What are reasonable adjustments?

Employers, training providers and EPAOs have a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments for learners with additional needs.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

A reasonable adjustment is any action that helps to reduce the effect of a disability or a physical or mental health condition, which may place a person at a disadvantage during employment, education or training. Employers, training providers and EPAOs have a legal duty, under the Equality Act 2010, to provide reasonable adjustments.

How are reasonable adjustments relevant to education?

Reasonable adjustments reduce the effect of a neurodiversity, which may place the learner at a disadvantage during the delivery of a qualification and its related assessment. Essentially, this allows neurodiverse learners to start on a level playing field to their peers.

Reasonable adjustments are individual and should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but typical adjustments might include:

  • specialist equipment, such as a voice-activated computer;
  • support personnel, such as sign-language interpreters;
  • software or hardware, such as a digital recorder for keeping notes;
  • physical adaptations, such as adjusting the height of desks;
  • formatting changes, such as providing handouts on different colour paper, or in a larger font; or
  • End-point assessment adjustments, such as allowing extra time to complete written tests.

How are reasonable adjustments specifically relevant to the assessment of apprentices?

Reasonable adjustments are especially important in end-point assessment, as training providers and EPAOs have a duty to ensure all learners are able to demonstrate their attainment. Reasonable adjustments in end-point assessments can cover anything from the location, timing or format of the assessment, to the availability of specialist equipment.

Examples include:

  • A learner with a literacy need has instructions for a practical test presented in clear fonts and double spaced;
  • A learner with a verbal memory need is provided with written questions as well as verbal in a discussion-based assessment; or
  • A learner with a visual processing speed need is allowed extra time for reading and writing tasks in a written test.

Do training providers and EPAOs have to make all the adjustments an apprentice asks for?

Training providers and EPAOs only have to make adjustments if it is reasonable to do so. The term reasonable is not defined in the legislation, and what is reasonable to one provider may not be reasonable to another.
It is also important to ensure that where reasonable adjustments are implemented, they don’t give a learner an advantage over any other learners and don’t compromise the reliability or validity of the assessment.

How do you define what adjustments are reasonable for individual neurodiverse learners?

It may be useful to consider the following when deciding if an adjustment is reasonable:

  • effectiveness in removing, reducing or preventing the disadvantage;
  • the cost and practicality of making the adjustment, and the resources that a provider has;
  • extent to which a learner will suffer without the reasonable adjustment;
  • and need to maintain academic and other standards.

The most important thing to remember is that all adjustments should have the overall aim of removing or reducing any substantial disadvantage faced by a neurodiverse learner which would not be faced by a neurotypical learner. The Cognassist Assessment report provides reasonable adjustment guidance on an individual basis across the full spectrum of neurodiversity.

What are the benefits of making reasonable adjustments for neurodiverse learners?

Applied correctly, reasonable adjustments should give a truer reflection of a neurodiverse learner’s capability. This will improve outcomes for these learners and attainment rates for the providers.

What are the dangers of not making reasonable adjustments for neurodiverse learners?

As training providers and EPAOs have a legal duty to accommodate reasonable adjustment requests, not doing so may constitute discrimination on grounds of disability.
Additionally, Ofsted inspections are required to look at whether reasonable adjustments have been made for neurodiverse learners, in line with the Equality Act 2010.

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