Additional action to promote equality in education and training

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

Education providers are required to follow employment law on equal opportunities for staff. This includes job advertisements and recruitment, appraisal and development and dismissal, redundancy and retirement. See the employment rights section for more details.

As well as meeting legal responsibilities, there are other things that education providers can do to promote equality:

Using the national curriculum

Within schools, the issue of equality is an integral part of personal, social and health education (PSHE) and the citizenship curriculum in England and Wales, and personal and social education (PSE) and education for citizenship in Scotland.

In England, the PSHE framework for teaching outlines which subjects should be taught at different key stages:

Key stage 1: Different types of teasing and bullying; bullying is wrong; how to get help with bullying.
Key stage 2: Awareness of the nature and consequences of anti-social and aggressive behaviours, such as bullying and racism; recognise and challenge stereotypes.
Key stage 3: The effects of all types of stereotyping, prejudice, bullying and racism; how to challenge them assertively.
Key stage 4: How to challenge offending behaviour, prejudice, bullying, racism and discrimination assertively, and taking the initiative in giving and receiving support.

Find out more about including equality issues within the curriculum in England and Wales.

In Scotland, the PSE curriculum for children aged five-14 covers four areas:

  • self-awareness
  • self-esteem
  • interpersonal relationships, and
  • independence and interdependence.

Health education in Scotland, which is often part of a core programme integrated with PSE, covers three inter-related strands:

  • Physical health – exploring physical factors in relation to health and looking after ourselves.
  • Emotional health – exploring emotions, feelings and relationships and how they affect our mental wellbeing.
  • Social health – exploring the interaction of the individual, the community and the environment in relation to health and safety.

Find out more about including equality issues in the Scottish curriculum from the Teachernet website and the Learning and Teaching Scotland website.

Appointing equality officers

Education providers are not required to appoint a dedicated equality and welfare officer, but many choose to as a way of helping them meet their different responsibilities.

Equality officers can monitor policies on equality and diversity and can also act as a first point of contact for any student or member of staff who feels that they have been treated unfairly or unlawfully.

Adopting flexible practices

As part of the right to an effective education, education providers should be prepared to examine ways of offering education flexibly as a potential way of meeting the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students or pupils. There is no specific requirement for education providers to offer education at different times, or in different ways, to suit other flexible learning demands – though it may be beneficial for providers to do so.

Education providers also need to make sure they comply with legal responsibilities as employers.

Training staff

In England and Wales, the Training and Development Agency for Schools provides information on professional standards for teachers and school staff, and diversity is one of the core standards.

In Scotland, this is covered by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Providing training on promoting racial equality and tackling discrimination is one of the legal responsibilities set out under the duty to promote race equality, which education providers must meet. Find out more about these responsibilities.

Handling complaints and disputes

Education providers must always treat any complaints about discrimination, harassment or bullying seriously and investigate them thoroughly. They should generally follow their internal resolution processes first, to try to solve the problem without needing to go to a tribunal.

Find out more about handling disputes among staff.

Find out more about how schools in England and Wales should handle complaints from parents, pupils or students.

Find out more about how schools in Scotland should handle complaints from parents, pupils or students.

Rewarding and recognising good approaches

Education providers could consider ways of formally recognising positive approaches made by staff to promote equality and tackle discrimination. Local authority education departments (or education authorities in Scotland) could also consider sharing good practices between schools and colleges in their area and beyond.

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