Inclusivity and Disability

This section provides you with an overview of key topics around inclusivity and disability.

student in lecture

If you have additional questions, please contact the Disabled Student Support team via email: Email disability-support@shu.ac.uk or on phone extension 3964.

The team aims to ensure that the University is compliant with its legal responsibility to support disabled students by making reasonable adjustments. They achieve this primarily through the provision of learning contracts and the delivery of specialist services for disabled students. The team also plays a key role in raising awareness about the need to anticipate the needs of disabled students and promotes the development of Inclusive Practice.

Information about Learning Contracts
A Learning Contract recommends what reasonable adjustments should be made to meet the needs of a disabled student and explains who is responsible for making them.

Where a student has a Learning Contract, the University has a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to the design and delivery of assessment.

Learning Contracts are produced by the Disabled Student Support team at the University. The team has developed a Learning Contracts FAQ which gives staff an overview of the provision.

Disabled students in overseas collaborative partner organisations will be given reasonable adjustments appropriate to their conditions, as agreed with the support services in their organisation.

How to access a student’s learning contract:

As soon as a student has approved their learning contract, it’s published on the Online Learning Contracts system.

All students with a learning contract also appear with a # symbol on the electronic Class Lists on the timetabling web pages. Click on the # symbol to go directly to the student’s learning contract.

Designing assessment for inclusivity
The delivery of a programme of learning can unintentionally present a range of barriers to learning or assessment that affect some students more than others and can result in students being unfairly disadvantaged.

Inclusive practice aims to minimise or remove these barriers and support the success of all students whilst ensuring that academic standards are not compromised.

An inclusive environment for learning anticipates the varied needs of learners and aims to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities through inclusive design.

Inclusive practice can reduce the need for a lot of individual adjustments in learning contracts.

Further guidance can be found in the Assessment topic of the Inclusive Practice Toolkit

Adjusted Marking (Stickers and marking assignments)

Note: The adjusted marking policies for deaf students and students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) have been merged and we are starting to move over to using blue stickers. Current students can continue to use red and green stickers before replenishing them with the new blue version.  The following guidelines relate to all versions of the stickers.

What are blue stickers for?

Blue stickers are issued to disabled students whose difficulties interfere with their ability to express themselves accurately and clearly in written form.   Although all students are expected to learn written conventions of their subject during their courses, students with SpLD and deaf students may find these rules difficult to acquire independently.   As a result they may take longer to learn these skills, if at all, but this is not indicative of their potential or ability.

All students are expected to proof read their work for spelling, grammar and structure errors; this is the same for students with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) who are also advised to take up their Specialist 1:1 Study Skills sessions where they will develop strategies related to their difficulties with written work. Deaf students whose natural language acquisition has been affected are also advised to take up their 1:1 Language Support Sessions where taught material and course jargon is clarified, and where their written work can be reviewed and amended.

The wording of the stickers is: Please mark this work for content and understanding and do not penalise surface errors in standard written English (inaccurate spelling, punctuation, grammar and word order). Contact Disabled Student Support on ext 3964 for further advice if required.

What is a surface error?

Examples of surface errors include where students might:

  • select an incorrect alternative word when spellchecking, such as ‘defiantly’ for ‘definitely’
  • use inconsistent or inaccurate punctuation
  • use faulty sentence level word order

Despite efforts to avoid them, SpLD and deaf students may still miss surface errors. Surface errors should not be penalised unless correct Standard Written English is a competence standard of the assignment.

Standard Written English

Justifications for Standard Written English being a requirement of an assignment need to be transparent so that it is clear to students and not discriminatory.  The requirement should be plainly stated in the assignment brief, alongside the potential marks at stake.  The requirement should be reiterated during lectures and seminars.  It is helpful for SpLD and deaf students to be given constructive feedback to help them identify ways of improving their written language skills.

If a whole course is to be completed with Standard Written English, this should be prominently stated in all pre course communication and reiterated in all assignments, examinations and lectures.

Stickers and marking assignments

Please note that marks for accurate referencing are not covered by the wording of the stickers.  Therefore, for ease of marking it is suggested that marks specifically for referencing are not included alongside those for accurate and correct use of language.

It is the academic member of staff’s responsibility to be aware of students with a learning contract recommendation for adjusted marking. The centrally produced class lists in timetabling have hash tags next to all students with learning contracts.

Although students have responsibility for placing a sticker on their work, they might sometimes forget. If their work is marked without reference to their learning contract, the marks will need to be recalculated, disregarding any surface errors of standard written English (inaccurate spelling, punctuation, grammar and word order).

reminder that students who have blue stickers recommended in their Learning Contracts should type the contents of the sticker at the beginning of their assignment before submitting. Preferably this should be in blue so that it can be seen clearly by the marker.

What to do if you can’t understand an assignment you are marking?

In the event of being unable to make sense of an assignment, or part of it, on account of the poor level of spelling, punctuation, grammar and word order, you should mark it as best as you can and give positive feedback on why it was difficult to understand the student’s written expression.  Please refer SpLD students to their Specialist Study Skills Support Tutor so that they can develop strategies to address their difficulties. Deaf students should be referred to their Language Support Tutor. The Senior Disability Adviser (Deaf Students) may be contacted to help untangle meaning from the script if necessary.

What if students continually don’t spellcheck their assignments?

Stickers are a reasonable adjustment which allows for any surface errors that occur, despite students having proofread and spellchecked their assignments.  SpLD and deaf students need to be encouraged to spellcheck consistently and systematically.  If you are concerned that a student hasn’t proofread or spellchecked their work at all please encourage them to:

  • use a spellchecker before handing in their work
  • take up their recommended one to one specialist support sessions

If you continue to be concerned please contact Disabled Student Support.

What should students do if an assignment needs to be submitted electronically?

reminder that students who have blue stickers recommended in their Learning Contracts should type the contents of the sticker at the beginning of their assignment before submitting. Preferably this should be in blue so that it can be seen clearly by the marker.

How to mark in accordance with the blue stickers The following method for adjusting marking is suggested:

Example 1

If marks for accurate and correctly written Academic English = 10% of overall marks, mark the assignment out of 90.

If the student achieves 45, this = 50% of 90

An equivalent mark of 50% should then be given for spelling, punctuation etc. 50% of 10 = 5%

Therefore the overall mark for this assignment would be 55%.

Example 2

If marks for accurate and correctly written Academic English = 5%, mark the assignment out of 95

If the student achieves 63, this = 66% of 95

An equivalent mark of 66% should be given for spelling 66% of 5 = 3.3%

Therefore the overall mark for this assignment would be 69%.

Example 3

‘Holistic’ marking. Many academic staff choose this way of adjusting marks for Academic English.  However, staff should be prepared to justify how they have reached this mark should a student challenge how it has been allocated to their work.

Accessible learning and assessment materials
Some students with visual impairments, motor control difficulties or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia may experience barriers accessing printed text and require their reading materials for both learning and assessment in more accessible format. Where a student has a preferred accessible format this will be stated on their learning contract.

Further guidance on accessible formats can be found on the Disabled Student Support intranet pages.

Recommendations about oral presentations

For a number of students with anxiety or processing difficulties, oral presentation are a form of assessment that can present significant difficulties. In most cases this can be managed by recommendations to deliver to a smaller audience or just to tutors, or by asking for disability-related difficulties to be discounted. For a small number of students an alternative form of assessment to presentations will be recommended. There will always be consultations with module/course leaders before this recommendations is made.

Alternative forms of assessment for examinations
Learning Contract Recommendation

Student adviceA student is given the recommendation for Alternative form of Assessment (AFA) for examinations when their disability prevents them from sitting formal timed assessments.

A small number of students are recommended Alternative Forms of Assessment (AFA) and in all cases, a Disability Adviser will contact the course leader before this recommendation is made. The names of most of these students are available to staff on a need to know basis, via the University Reporting Portal: SPS-DIS-0020 Alternative Forms of Assessment.

Module Leader responsibilities

As outlined in the Learning Contract, module leaders are responsible for arranging a suitable alternative form of assessment. This should not be an examination or time bound assessment held under examination conditions.

Module Leaders are asked not to put pressure on the University Examination Service to arrange an examination for a student with AFA recommendation.

If a Module Leader uses material within an exam paper in some way, as part of an alternative assessment instrument, it is imperative that the exam content is not compromised, e.g. not presented to the student before other students receive it in an exam.

University Examination Service responsibilities

The University Examination Service has no responsibility for arranging examinations for students with AFA. It is not in the remit of the service to offer advice to module leaders on the type of alternative assessment which should be offered to the student.

Disabled Student Support Team responsibilities

Disability Advisers will contact Course Leaders prior to any new recommendation for AFAs being made. This will enable AFAs to be flagged and viability discussed. Arrangements for phase tests will be discussed at this point too.

Support for Module Leaders

Resources to support Module Leaders in arranging AFAs are available on the Teaching Essentials website under Inclusive Practice. Module Leaders are also encouraged to seek advice from Course Leaders; and colleagues as appropriate, e.g. Heads of Academic Development; Heads of Teaching Learning and Assessment; Faculty Disability Coordinators etc.