Single Equality Duty (2010)
The Equality Act 2010 has replaced all existing equality legislation such as the Race Relations Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act. It also provides some changes that schools need to be aware of.
The Equality Act 2010 provides a single, consolidated source of discrimination law, covering all the types of discrimination that are unlawful. It simplifies the law by removing anomalies and inconsistencies that had developed over time in the existing legislation, and it extends the protection from discrimination in certain areas.
As far as schools are concerned, for the most part, the effect of the new law is the same as it has been in the past – meaning that schools cannot unlawfully discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Protection is now extended to pupils who are pregnant or undergoing gender reassignment. However, schools that are already complying with the law should not find major differences in what they need to do.
The exceptions to the discrimination provisions for schools that existed under previous legislation – such as the content of the curriculum, collective worship and admissions to single-sex schools and schools of a religious character, are all replicated in the new act. However, there are some changes that will have an impact on schools as follows:
- It is now unlawful for employers to ask health-related questions of applicants before job offer, unless the questions are specifically related to an intrinsic function of the work. This means that schools should no longer, as a matter of course, require job applicants to complete a generic health questionnaire as part of the application procedure. Schools are advised to review their existing practices to ensure they are complying with both the Health Standards Regulations and Section 60 of the Equality Act.
- It is now unlawful to discriminate against a transgender pupil.
- It is now unlawful to discriminate against a pupil who is pregnant or has recently had a baby.
- New Positive Action provisions will allow schools to target measures that are designed to alleviate disadvantages experienced by, or to meet the particular needs of, pupils with particular protected characteristics. Such measures will need to be a proportionate way of achieving the relevant aim – for example providing special catch-up classes for Roma children or a project to engage specifically with alienated Asian boys.
- Extending the reasonable adjustment duty to require schools to provide auxiliary aids and services to disabled pupils. However this duty is not due to come into effect until a later date, following consultation on implementation and approach.
Checklist for school staff and governors on Equality Act 2010 planning
- Is information collected on protected groups (disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) with regards to both pupils and staff? Is this information used to improve the provision of services? Are auxiliary aids and services provided, where reasonable, for protected groups?
- Is pupil achievement monitored by protected groups? Are there are trends or patterns in the data that may require additional action?
- Are protected group pupils encouraged to participate in school life? How is this shown through representation in school events such as class assemblies and the school council?
- Is bullying and harassment of protected group pupils and staff monitored and is this information used to make a difference?
- Are protected groups portrayed positively in school books, displays and discussions such as circle time and class assemblies?
- Does the school take part in annual events such as Deaf Awareness week to raise awareness of disability? Does the school actively try to make pupils aware of discrimination and its effects?
- Is the school environment as accessible as possible to pupils, staff and visitors to the school? Are open evenings and other events which parents or carers attend held in an accessible part of the school?
- Is information available to parents, visitors, pupils, past pupils and staff in formats which are accessible if required? Is everyone aware of this?
- Are procedures for the election of parent governors open to candidates and voters from protected groups?
- Are staff aware of the 2010 Equality Act and their responsibilities to comply with the act? Are they aware of the different forms of discrimination? Are they aware of the term ‘reasonable adjustments’ and what this means in practice?
- Has the school drawn up a plan, based on information collected on protected groups, consultation with pupils, parents and staff? Has the school consulted representatives of disabled groups in the community about steps the school is taking? Does the plan show how the work supports equality, and will reduce socio-economic inequality?
Guidance on implementing the duties under the Equality Act 2010 for school leaders and SENCOs (April 2012). Information on the Single Equality Duty (2010) can be found on this link: Department of Education guidance for schools on 2010 Equality Act.