What are the implications of this Act for schools and governors?
Links to guidance, legislation, resources and organisations:
- Setting objectives for the Public Sector Equality Duty (which should be in place by 6th April 2012)
- Some advice for School Leaders from DfE
- General information from the DfE site
- What employers need to know (GEO guide)
- Government Equalities Office (GEO) information on the Equalities Act
- GEO Equalities Act Fact sheet
- What the public sector needs to know (GEO guide)
- Equality and Diversity Forum
- The Equality and Diversity Shop (resources for schools and the workplace)
- The role of the Governing Body in supporting refugee families
- More on Refugee Education and Home Office Refugee Integration website
- Equality Act 2010 (legislation)
- Equality Act 2010 Easy Read version
- Equality and Human Rights Commission
- New Equality Act Guidance Starter Kit
The DfE site (updated January 19th 2011) gives the following general information:
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 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. We are considering the implications of this in relation to existing guidance for schools on establishing fitness and ability to teach (as required by the Health Standards (England) Regulations 2003). In the meantime, 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. Schools may decide to ask necessary health questions after job offer. In any case, they should ensure that any health-related questions are targeted, necessary and relevant to the job applied for.
- It is now unlawful to discriminate against a transsexual 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.
- The three existing general and specific equality duties on schools (race, disability and gender) to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity will be combined into a single, less bureaucratic and more outcome-focused duty extending to all of the protected characteristics. However, this change will not come into effect until April 2011 so the existing equality duties are to remain in place until then.
Full advice on the act and the implications for schools is available to view and download from this page.