Inclusive placements

This inclusive teaching guide is aligned to Baseline Standard 1 and the UK Professional Standards Framework (Advance HE website) A1. It provides general advice on how you can prepare and support your students going on placement. 

Ensure learning outcomes are clear 

  • Clarity about the purpose and intended learning outcomes in the design stage will show whether all elements of a placement are necessary or whether they can be designed out. This will include thinking about any requirements of professional bodies.  
  • Placement activities can sometimes require additional skills that are not necessarily going to be assessed. This can cause additional stress for some students and may create barriers. 

Course publicity information 

  • Publicity information needs to be clear about the requirements for your programme. Provide video examples of placement settings to help your students envisage the type of activity they may be involved in. This ensures that your students are better able to anticipate any support needs they may have and speak to course team prior to application. 
  • Publicity materials should represent diverse groups. This helps your students to feel a sense of belonging if they can identify with the images they see. 
  • Communicate a willingness to adapt and meet reasonable adjustments where required. This will encourage disabled applicants and those with faith or cultural requirements to apply and not feel that they are not suitable for the course. 

Be prepared for disabled applicants when organising placements 

  • Provide clear procedures, rationale and multiple opportunities for your  students to disclose disability following placement information events.  
  • Audit your placement providers – collect information about physical access, travel considerations and working hours. Make them aware of University of Leeds policies on equality and diversity and ask that they respect these in reference to our students. This ensures that information is available if specific adjustments need to be considered, ensuring there is a fair procedure for allocating placements depending on requirements. 
  • Invite feedback from your students about their views on the inclusiveness of their placement experience so that issues can be addressed in future planning. 
  • Where it becomes known that a student has been treated unfairly on the basis of protected characteristics, the student should be followed up with support. The appropriacy of using this placement provider in the future should be carefully considered. 
  • Provide clear procedures, rationale and multiple opportunities for your students to disclose disability, following placement information events. Their disability might not affect them too much in study, but may present more of a barrier in a placement setting so your students may need to be able to disclose at that point, if they haven’t already. 

Support your students to find placements 

  • Where there is a requirement for your students to find their own placements, create a level playing field by sharing and dissemination information about industry contacts.
  • Some students may face a disadvantage with finding placements due to underdeveloped skills and inexperience in professional and social networking2. This can be due to their social and prior educational background.

Be aware that unpaid placements (e.g during year in industry) may be inaccessible to students in financial hardship and this will limit their options. If this is a longstanding approach to placements in your school, seek opportunities to discuss and address these inequalities in future course design.

Support your students to prepare for placements

  • Embed structured support for preparation for placement into the curriculum and provide accreditation for attendance. This ensures that your students don’t have to find additional time outside of their normal timetable and workload commitments to attend sessions, which could be problematic for some disabled students and those who need to work part-time or have caring responsibilities. 
  • Ensure students have clarity about the expectations of placement hours where this relates to meeting the requirements of regulatory bodies, e.g in medicine and health.
  • Promote awareness of University of Leeds policies (Equality and Inclusion Unit website) and equality legislation in general, to both students and placement providers. This ensures that your students are aware of their legal rights within placement settings. 
  • University policies should be consistently applied to students’ experience of course requirements so should still apply in off-campus learning. 
  • Follow procedures for finding out how disabled students’ support requirements can be met during placement. This may not have been fully explored during initial discussions about a student’s support requirements with the Disability Team, particularly if the placement is optional. Your Faculty Disability Coordinator (Student Education Service website) in Disability Services will be able to advise further. 
  • Help your students to think through any other requirements they may have (e.g. in relation to religious observance or caring responsibilities) and how they will arrange this while on placement. Pre-placement meetings can help you and your students pre-empt practical or logistical considerations. This will reduce the need for additional arrangements to be made once the placement has started, which could be stressful.  

Ensure your students know what to do in unforeseen events 

  • Provide your students with clear and readily available information about arrangements for sickness/emergencies. This reduces stress and ensures your students with additional needs, fluctuating medical conditions and caring responsibilities, can follow procedures easily. 
  • Ensure you have a system and a clear process in place for students to raise any concerns they have in relation to their placement. Provide a safe environment and supportive culture where students feel able to raise any issues of inequality that arise. 
  • Students in Dentistry, Healthcare, Psychology and Medicine can speak to a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian in the first instance if they want to discuss any concerns relating to placements. 
  • Many students try to deal with workplace inequality themselves and therefore personalise the problem. Your students need to be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to address such situations with support.  

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Acknowledgements 

Guide written by Jenny Brady | Updated July 2022 by Jenny Brady, and Mike Kerr and Helen Clarke 

© University of Leeds 2022 | Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) 

References 

  1. Higher Education Academy (2014) ‘Professional Placements’ https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/resources/professional_placements.pdf [Accessed 01 July 2016].  
  2. Equality Challenge Unit (2010) Work placements in the creative industries: Good placements for all students staff toolkit (2010) Available at: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/external/workplacements-staff-toolkit.pdf (Accessed: 11 November 2016). 
  3. Equality Challenge Unit. (2016) Work placements in the arts and cultural sector: Diversity, equality and access – equality challenge unit. Available at: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/work-placements-report/ (Accessed: 11 November 2016).