Equality and Diversity

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act

The Equality Act 2010 covers all the types of discrimination that are unlawful in England and Wales. The Act applies to all maintained and independent schools, as well as academies and free schools.

The Act covers all aspects of school life relating to how a school treats pupils and prospective pupils, parents and carers, employees, and members of the community. Everything a school does must be fair, non-discriminatory and not put individuals or groups of people at a disadvantage. In particular, a school must not discriminate, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil in relation to:

  • Admissions
  • The way it provides education for pupils
  • How it provides pupils access to any benefit, facility or service
  • Excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment

Protected characteristics

The Act uses the term “protected characteristics” to refer to aspects of a person’s identity. Treating a person less favourably because they have one or more of these characteristics would be unlawful. The protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The protected characteristics of age and marriage and civil partnership apply to schools as employers, but not in relation to their provision for pupils.

Public Sector Equality Duty

Since April 2011, schools have also been bound by Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 which is best known as the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).

The PSED has two parts: the “general” duty and “specific” duties. The general duty is the overarching legal requirement for schools and they must consider how their policies, practices and day-to-day activities impact on pupils and staff. Schools are required to have “due regard” to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relations

The two specific duties for schools aim to assist them to meet the general duty. These are:

  • To publish information to show how they are complying with the Equality Duty. This must be updated at least annually
  • To prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objectives at least every four years

Schools should have complied with these duties by 2012.

Further information

Sheffield City Council have produced a Toolkit to Develop a Model Equality Statement.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced Technical Guidance for Schools and on the PSED.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced Guidance on making reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils.