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Report on the Current Disability Training Programme in the 4 DEMOS Universities

27 March 2001

Mike Wray
Project Coordinator
DEMOS Project
HEFCE Disability Initiative 2000-2002


  1. Aim
  2. Method
  3. Findings
  4. Summary
  5. References
  6. Appendix

[This report is available for download in Rich Text Format (.rtf) (47Kb) or as MS Word 6.0 document (.doc) (38Kb)]

1 Aim

This report was undertaken to obtain a record of the current level of activity from the Disability Offices in the four DEMOS universities in delivering staff development.

The purpose of establishing such information was two-fold -

  1. to form part of an overall analysis of need from which to inform the development of the DEMOS project outcomes;
  2. to provide a baseline report that can be used as an evaluation device from which to measure the impact of the project outcomes on any training initiatives.

It is useful to make a distinction here between a training need analysis, where overall training requirements are identified and an analysis of training need which scrutinises the training need that has been identified (Rae, 1997).
Evidence for the training need was outlined in the original project bid delivered to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and is based on national and local awareness that the support of disabled students is gaining importance in the HE community with the introduction of the SEN and Disability Rights in Education Bill and the QAA code of Practice - Student with Disabilities (QAA, 1999). Various reports have emphasised the importance of staff development in raising the awareness of disability issues - National Dyslexia Working Party (1999), HEFCE Baseline Report (SQW,1999).

This paper fits into an overall framework of activities undertaken by the project to provide an in-depth analysis of training need and is partnered by another paper which examines the training activities currently taking place in the four universities by the staff development units of each HEI. These form what might ordinarily be the initial phase of an analysis of need in examining the context in which the project is working.


2 Method

Each Manager of the Disability Service or their equivalent in the four DEMOS universities was interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire (see appendix 1). In recent years, training in the Manchester Universities has been led by the Disability Offices (DOs) in liaison with staff from the Joint Universities Resource Centre (Access Summit). Therefore, the Manager of the Access Summit Centre was also interviewed. Responsibility for disability-related training has stemmed from the DOs of the universities although there has been some liaison with Staff Development Units (SDUs). Representatives of SDUs were interviewed separately and the findings of these interviews will be reported elsewhere.

The Project Coordinator visited each university for an initial discussion at the start of the Project. At these meetings the general background to disability-related training was discussed. Later in the year, the Project Coordinator formally visited each university and interviewed each member of staff using the semi-structured questionnaire. The Access Summit Manager also gave the Coordinator some documents which recorded the training programme of the previous years and a sample of feedback questionnaires.


3 Findings

The findings reported in this section relate to information given by the interviewees for the period June 1999 to June 2000 since this is the period for which we have the most complete set of information.

3.1 Training activities in the four universities

3.1.1 UMIST Training Events

The Disability Adviser presented a half-day session about support in the university for disabled students to new lecturers who were attending a 6-day course on academic practice.

In addition he ran four courses:

[Note: Courses marked with an asterisk were run in liaison with Access Summit]

Table 1. Disability-related staff development workshops run at UMIST June 1999 - June 2000
Course title Length of course Attendees Number of attendees
Admissions of disabled students* 1.5 hours Admissions tutors 10
2 x Enrolment and registration of disabled students* 1 hour Administrators 12-14 at each
Disability and HE - Part 2* 2 hours Disability Coordinators 12 Other staff development activities

The Disability Adviser attends UMIST tutors' meetings as part of his role. These meet once per month and he raises disability related issues there. There is also a Disability Advisory Committee.
He reported that he hasn't really had the resources to speak at regular events such as inductions because his role is only part-time. However, he did speak for 10 minutes at the main student talk during freshers' week.

3.1.2 Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Training Events

[Note: Courses marked with an asterisk were run in liaison with Access Summit]

Table 2. Disability-related staff development workshops run at MMU June 1999 - June 2000
Course title Length of course Attendees Number of attendees
Workshop : Identifying dyslexic students 2 Hours Department of Textiles 20
Workshop : Supporting non-traditional students 2.5 hours Department of Information and Communication : undergraduate tutors 6
Workshop : Assessing Presentations 1.5 hours Department of Economics 20
Presentation : The implications of widening participation initiatives for learning support in Higher Education 1 hour Department of Information and Communications 17
2 x Welcoming disabled people and improving access* 2 hours Faculty of Community Studies, Law and Education 12
DDA : Goods and Services 2 hours Disability Advisory Group 15
Workshop : Supporting students with disabilities 1.5 hours Department of Contemporary Arts, Alsager 20
QAA code of practice* 3 hours Student Services staff and wardens 25 Other activities

The Head of the Learning Support Unit has attended four subject review preparations on student support and guidance and three subject review meetings. She has also presented a 20-minute paper to Faculty Secretaries on the QAA Code of Practice and spoken to the Humanities and Social Science Management Group about disability issues and coordinated a meeting of the Faculty Disability Coordinators.
In the last year, the Counselling Service at MMU ran two workshops on mental health difficulties.

3.1.3 University of Manchester Training Events

Information was only available from January 2000 because the Disability Coordinator was new in post.

[Note: Courses marked with an asterisk were run in liaison with Access Summit]

Table 3. Disability-related staff development workshops run at the University of Manchester January 2000 - June 2000
Course title Length of course Attendees Number of attendees
2x lunchtime disability awareness sessions* 1.5 - 2 hours Everyone invited 30 at each
Teaching and Learning symposium - QAA 1 hour Academic 5
Departmental disability co-ordinators 2 hours Mixture 30
Student support and guidance course 1.5 - 2 hours Academic and support staff 12
New staff induction 15 minutes on a monthly event Mixture Approx. 30 at each Other Activities

The Disability Coordinator has spoken to faculty and central admissions staff about clearing procedures and general admissions guidelines for disabled applicants. She also facilitated in conjunction with Access Summit, a session on deaf awareness for the History department because a deaf student was enrolling on one of their courses. She has attended a meeting of the Medical School Committee to raise issues about the support of disabled students on medical courses.

3.1.4 University of Salford Training events

[Note: Courses marked with an asterisk were run in liaison with Access Summit]

Table 4. Disability-related staff development workshops run at the University of Salford June 1999 - June 2000
Course title Length of course Attendees Number of attendees
Enabling technology for those with Dyslexia 1 - 2 hours 3 Educational Development Unit
2 Nursing
1 Languages
The Impact of the DDA for Accommodation Service* 1 - 2 hours Campus and Residential Services 9
Support available in HE 1 - 2 hours Deaf students and staff on course unknown
Deaf Awareness training* 1 - 2 hours Social Work Department unknown Other activities

Disability support is based within the Equalities Office at the University of Salford and the office is responsible for providing training relating to harassment in the university. During these events there is some discussion about disability issues. The Manager of the Equalities Office also attended an admissions tutors meeting during the year. Originally this had been planned to be a formal training session on issues relating to disabled applicants but there were not enough people signed up for the session so it was seen as necessary to attend a meeting of the tutors. Over 100 people attend these meetings.

An audit was carried out in 1998 and one of the recommendations from this was to convene a mental health committee. On this committee 3 things were decided:

  1. raise awareness (sent out a booklet)
  2. befriending system set up
  3. ensure mental health is in policy documents etc.

3.1.5 Access Summit Training events

The Manager of the Access Summit Centre has been involved in a number of workshops run in the four universities as mentioned above.
In addition to those mentioned above the following three workshops have been run through Access Summit.

[Note: Courses marked with an asterisk were run at University of Manchester before 01/01/2000]

Table 5. Disability-related staff development workshops run by Access Summit June 1999 - June 2000
Course title Length of course Attendees Number of attendees
DDA and Goods and Services* 1 hour Estates, academic staff, administrative staff 15
DDA and accommodation 1 hour Hall wardens, accommodation staff from all 4 HEIs 20
Disability in the library context 3 hours CALIM staff (library staff in Manchester) 20
Disability Awareness and Teaching and Learning issues for supporting students with disabilities 3 sessions of 3 hours SITEC (bespoke session) an FE provider of short courses for the University of Salford 20 Other activities

The Access Summit Manager has attended a number of meetings that relate to staff development. She has attended meetings at the pre-entry stage with departmental staff to discuss the support of individual students. She is a member of the CALIM Disability Working Group and trains non-medical helpers on disability-related topics. She has spoken to the joint UMIST and University of Manchester Counselling Service regarding linking services for students with mental health difficulties and has attended a meeting with medics at Manchester to discuss inclusion and exclusion of disabled students and applicants.

3.2 Other questions

3.2.1 How are sessions advertised?

All four universities are now (2000/01) publicising workshops through their respective Staff Development Units. This is usually through Staff Development Handbooks or on web pages. These are followed up with emails to various staff groups if appropriate.
Otherwise, training is advertised through the appropriate departmental avenues, for instance at departmental team meetings or by email from the disability coordinator.

3.2.2 What events are planned for the forthcoming year?

In 2000/01 the consortium of the four universities and the Access Summit Centre decided on a set programme of training events. However, MMU was unable to commit to this programme. Each Disability Officer in the other three universities therefore, was assigned to particular topics and these are delivered during the course of one week (if possible) in each of the three universities. For example, the Disability Adviser from UMIST and the Access Summit Manager delivered a workshop on dyslexia; this took place during the week of 8-12 January 2001 and was held three times; once in each of the participating universities.
There has been a problem with the planned module on admissions because it wasn't seen as appropriate in two of the institutions. Instead, at those universities, the Disability Officer will attend a meeting of admissions staff.

MMU have no formal advance plans for the year 2000/01. Training needs will be addressed on an ongoing basis and requests will be met.

Various other events will take place at the University of Manchester and UMIST that are outside the programme decided upon by the consortium such as the talk at each staff induction.

The University of Salford are also planning to go directly to Schools to tackle disability issues on a more generic basis.

3.2.3 Are the events planned in partnership with other departments in your university e.g. staff development?

As mentioned above all four Disability Offices liaise with the Manager of the Access Summit Centre in the delivery of training events.

All four Disability Offices have made efforts to coordinate and advertise their activities through the Staff Development Units. Some effort has been made to integrate disability training into the generic programme of activities of the SDUs, for example, disability issues have been introduced on induction programmes and the Disability Adviser at UMIST delivers a workshop on the new lecturers' course.

The issue of embedding disability issues into the staff development curriculum was raised at Salford. However, disability support is located within the Equal Opportunities Office which deals with a wide remit, so it was difficult to argue for the inclusion of only disability as an issue when others things should be included as well i.e. ethnicity and gender. If all these issues were covered the material would take up too much time in the sessions or only provide a very brief overview.

3.2.4 Have you carried out a training needs analysis?

Only one formal training needs analysis has been undertaken by the Disability Offices in recent years. This took place at the University of Salford in 1998 as part of an overall audit of Equal Opportunities. A letter was sent out to the Heads of Departments at the time asking them to ask their staff about their training needs. The HODs or their nominees were then interviewed.

However, there are some mechanisms for identifying issues that require training such as meetings that take place at the Access Summit Centre.
In 1997 as part of the development strategy of the centre the Access Summit Manager asked the disability officers in each university to identify what activities were required. A piecemeal approach was taken in the first year, then a programme of activities was undertaken in the second year.

Another example is the QAA Code of Practice review that is taking place at the University of Manchester where issues have been identified at committee level to be addressed through staff development events.

3.2.5 Has training been requested?

Each university apart from UMIST has had training requested on a 'needs' basis from academic Departments and from central services such as Personnel.

3.2.6 How do you decide what content is covered in each session?

As discussed above, content is decided upon from varying sources. The Disability Advisors discuss training issues at Access Summit meetings and this year this process has resulted in a structured programme of activity. The Disability Officers attend various meetings where issues are raised or training requested. When the Access Summit Centre originally developed a programme of events the stages in a students' life were used as a framework. Issues that affected the sector were then incorporated (such as the DDA, QAA). Information and ideas are also obtained through feedback from students and from evaluation forms from attendees at training events.

Training events are usually focused in one of three ways:

  1. To address a specific need. For example, if a department is about to take a deaf student onto a course, training might be geared directly to the issues of supporting a deaf student for that department.
  2. To appeal to a particular target group e.g. the DDA Services and Goods workshop is geared towards customer services personnel but advertised generically.
  3. To address a particular topic e.g. dyslexia and the student experience in HE.

Workshops have been developed in liaison with the Access Summit Centre and as a general guide the content takes the form of:

3.2.7 Is there a formal institutional statement regarding staff training in disability?

Approaches vary between the four universities.

There is no formal statement although staff development initiatives (including the DEMOS Project) are mentioned in the University's disability statement.

University of Manchester:
Yes, in the Training and Development Unit's handbook and in the Disability Statement.

No formal statement. We are hoping to take a proactive approach through the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) to implement the QAA Code of Practice. Staff development issues will hopefully be taken on by the SDU.
Sessions are voluntary. However, the Disability Coordinator's posts within the faculties are taken by assigned member of staff and it was discussed at the DAC that they should attend some of the training in order to fulfil their role.

University of Salford:
They are working on a code of practice for the whole university to add to the Equal Opportunities statement. Departments have been asked to write their own contributions so that the approach isn't prescriptive. This process has taken a long time. It will include staff development.
The implementation of the code will be monitored through the Equal Opportunities Committee. We are trying to move towards mainstreaming our activities. We are hoping to go to Schools and come up with Action Plans.

The Access Summit Centre:
Part of the remit for Access Summit is to provide training and this is advertised in publicity leaflets and materials.

3.2.8 How do you assess the usefulness of the sessions?

Workshop sessions are usually evaluated using a standard happy sheet that is either the one used by the institution's SDU or is the Access Summit Feedback form.

The Disability Officers reported that the general feedback has been positive for most sessions, for example, further training sessions are often requested. If feedback has been negative the reason has usually been identified, e.g. 1 respondent out of 20 reported negative feeling about a workshop, but it was realised that this person had been sat in the wrong session!

The DOs also had ideas why the feedback had been positive. One of the reasons suggested is that attendance is voluntary and often the same 'converted' members of staff turn up. At one event a dyslexic student talked about their experience and this resulted in very positive feedback.

Other 'behavioural' responses that provide feedback on the effectiveness of training were reported. For instance the DOs noticed the number of students referred to the service for support from a department increased almost immediately after a training session in that department. Also training has been observed to increase the traffic of enquiries from staff regarding services and seeking further advice.

There has been no formal overall assessment of the effectiveness of training sessions or analysis of the results of happy sheets. The internal public relations office at the University of Manchester have offered to evaluate the disability service as a whole and this would presumably include staff development events.

The interviewees did report varying levels of success at obtaining full attendance. Attendance has been better when the event took place during, for example, a department training away day rather than if it is offered as something run by learning support externally.
Lunchtime sessions seem to be working as a way of increasing attendance. However, this format in itself did cause a problem (albeit, a desirable problem) during one session in which some people wanted to carry on but half had to leave because of lectures.

3.2.9 What guides/information have you produced? Booklets, websites, leaflets etc.

The Access Summit Centre have produced a series of booklets. These are distributed widely to disabled students and to staff as appropriate. They are also given out during workshop sessions.

All four universities produce a disability statement. This is also distributed widely to staff and usually to all disabled applicants and disabled students at the university.

The MMU have recently upgraded the information on their website. The other three universities hope to develop their information available through the WWW.
The University of Salford have also used a booklet by SKILL called Guidelines on Supporting Student with Mental Health problems.


4 Summary

This paper was written as part of the overall analysis of training need to inform the direction and evaluation of the project. All four universities have been engaged in an extensive range of staff development activities, often in liaison with the Access Summit Centre, during the period June 1999 - June 2000.

Approximately 300 staff attended formal events that lasted for more than one hour although it is unknown how many individual members of staff this number accounts for. A similar number were engaged in less formalised sessions such as subject review preparation and admissions tutor meetings.

Events are split into those that are planned in advance and advertised through central services (i.e. SDUs) and those that are arranged on a needs basis.

Some liaison is taking place between the disability offices and the staff development units in order to identify and disseminate the development activities that are taking place.

There has only been one formal appraisal of the training need of staff in relation to disability issues in the HEIs. Training activities are identified in less informal ways through meetings of the consortium, liaison with departments and the Disability Offices understanding of the issues that are currently important in the support of disabled students.

A clearly identified programme of activities has been planned and implemented across the disability offices in liaison with the Access Summit Centre.
There is also a substantial amount of activity that takes place that could also be described as staff development. However, there doesn't appear to be a clearly identified staff development strategy relating to disability issues across or within the four universities.

There have been many positive responses to training activities in feedback and in terms of further activity that has been stirred up by the events. However, evaluation of the activities seems to take place in a relatively casual basis. No formal analysis of the effectiveness of the training activities has been undertaken.


5 References

National Working Party on Dyslexia in Higher Education (1999) Dyslexia in Higher Education: policy, provision and practice. The University of Hull.

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (1999) Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. Section 3: Student with disabilities. QAA, Gloucester.

Rae, L. (1997) How to measure training effectiveness, 3rd edition. Gower, Aldershot.

Segal Quince Wickstead Limited (1999) Guidance on base-level provision for disabled students in higher education institutions. Report 99/04. The Higher Education Funding Council for England, Bristol. (Available at : http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Pubs/hefce/)



Current approaches to training/professional development in the 4 HEIs
Disability office interview

What disability training has taken place in the last year in your institution?
Please state number of sessions, length of sessions, approximate number of attendees, nature of event (workshop, lecture, induction talk), staff group, what areas where covered in each event?

How are the sessions advertised?

What events are planned for the forthcoming year?

Are the events planned in partnership with other departments in your university e.g. staff development?

Have you carried out a training needs analysis?

Has training been requested?

How do you decide what content is covered in each session?

Is there an institutional statement regarding the inclusion of disability training?

How do you assess the usefulness of the sessions?

What guides/information have you produced? Booklets, websites, leaflets etc.