BIS Consultation on DSA reforms 8th May 2014

Patoss, the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties, has published informal notes from their meeting with BIS and others representing SpLD support organisations on 8th May 2014.

Patoss along with other colleagues from SpLD and student support organisations met with BIS on 8 May to explore the government department’s position and help to inform decision makers.

Below is an informal note of that meeting:

BIS’ Overall Position

BIS are pleased to be working with stakeholders from the Special Education Needs and Disability sector to progress the work on modernising the current system of DSA to students in HE and ensure its sustainability and cost-effectiveness. It values feedback and advice from its stakeholders, which will be used to inform the guidance it is drafting.  BIS remains committed to ensuring appropriate and effective support is available for disabled students while they are studying in HEIs.

We are holding a series of workshops with a variety of stakeholders, including from the following areas: Governance; HE student advocate groups, Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) practitioners, HE DSA delivery agents.

Overall Outcome of the Meeting/Workshop on 8th May

The meeting was considered to be positive, and some stakeholders viewed the announcement as an opportunity to make changes.  The main issue for the stakeholders was the short timescale.  It was agreed that the group would be contacted next month to discuss matters further and once BIS had had the opportunity to discuss matters further with other groups and challenge thinking.

The meeting covered:

  1. Overview of timescale and process.
  2. What SpLD is, measurement and impact.
  3. Abuses in the current process and a lack of a ‘gatekeeper’ role.
  4. How SpLD diagnosis/assessment and support works in schools.
  5. What are reasonable adjustments?  This was covered in some detail, and the group looked at various examples of where HEIs might do more to support students.  We also examined areas where this might be more difficult to achieve.  The SPACE project and also ADSHE paper on reasonable adjustments can provide useful information.
  6. How support should be designed to achieve independent, autonomous learning.
  7. The nature of the support provided and by whom.


  1. BIS agreed to provide an example of an Equality Impact Analysis.  Stakeholders were invited to provide relevant evidence for the DSA Equality Analysis being drafted within BIS.
  2. SPACE project and ADSHE paper links to be sent to BIS.

Further Details

Stakeholders provided information relating to the impact of SpLDs on learning, and that the impact was related more to the environment and circumstances within which students were learning, rather than how they ‘scored’ in their diagnostic assessment.  This is important when considering how to support these students.

The meeting looked at a number of examples of good practice and also areas where HEIs could do more to support the student.

This included:

  1. Looking at how institutions respond to short term support requirements and a consideration of implications if that support was to be rolled out further as part of reasonable adjustment.
  2. Considering what information is provided to disabled students and considering how this might be adopted as standard practice
  3. Discussions on dedicated AT expertise and networked assistive software and how the Scottish universities operate in this area.  Discussion on accessible lecture materials as a matter of course.
  4. An exploration of different areas where HEIs responses vary at the moment and a look at what reasonable adjustment means when considering good practice.
  5. Considering what a more inclusive teaching environment may mean in terms of personal support.
  6. Discussion on 1:1 support, including the wide variations in what is provided, how this is used, good and bad practice, what HEIs may reasonably anticipate.
  7. Looking at ADSHE guidance on reasonable adjustments and considering how suggestions might be achieved.
  8. Role of Disability advisers, SFE, gatekeepers, the Needs Assessor.
  9. What Non-Medical Help services may be considered reasonable adjustments.

Agenda and Attendees:

Changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances

Meeting held Thursday 8th May 2014, 13:00 to 16:00

Meeting agenda

  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Background and scope
  3. The Equality Analysis (AKA Equality Impact Assessment) and research
  4. Range and types of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)
  5. What can HEIs do to support SpLDs with regard to anticipatory adjustments and individual arrangements?
  6. What role should DSAs play?
  7. Outstanding issues
  8.  Next steps
  9. AOB


Sally Freeman (ADSHE); Emily Chevalier (ADSHE); Mel Byrne (Dyslexia SpLD Trust); Cathy Salisbury (ASASA); Lynn Greenwold (PATOSS); Sue Flohr (BDA); Abi James (BDA); Jacky Ridsdale (Dyslexia Action); Jola Edwards (BIS); Elaine Underwood (BIS); Paul Higgs (BIS)

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