School Equality Obligations


By Laura Clark
on 23 June, 2017

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Does your school meet its Equality obligations?

Is your school complying with its duties and responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010? Do your governors and staff know which behaviour is unlawful under the Act and how equality law applies to them?

Compliance with the Equality Act 2010 is mandatory

Compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the public sector equality duty (or general duty) and supporting specific duties is mandatory for all schools and academies. The cost of getting it wrong should not be under-estimated. Non-compliance with your school’s statutory duties and obligations could lead to enforcement action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Tribunal or Court proceedings by staff, parents and pupils and could impact on the school’s overall Ofsted inspection grade. Schools should be aware that equality is integral to the Common Inspection Framework 2015 and that equality and diversity are specified factors that must be taken into account in all of Ofsted’s key judgements.

General and Specific Equality Duties

It is essential that senior leaders, governors/board members can show they understand their duties and responsibilities and that they take equality matters seriously. In particular, decision makers in schools will need to be able to demonstrate, by reference to published equality information, how they have “due regard” to the requirements of the school’s general equality duty i.e. how, when making decisions and developing policies, they have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share it
  • Foster good relations across all characteristics.

Schools must also be aware of their statutory obligation to publish one or more equality objectives. These should be specific and relevant to the particular circumstances of the school and should reflect achievable and measurable improvements that the school wishes to make. The obligation to publish equality information and objectives is contained in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017 which came into force on 31 March 2017 and which replicate the specific duties originally contained in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011. Under the 2017 Regulations, schools must publish equality objectives no later than 30 March 2018 if they have not done so already under the 2011 Regulations. More detailed information on schools’ general and specific equality duties can be found in our guidance for schools - The Equality Act 2010 - FAQs and Key Information for Schools.

Staff awareness

As part of a school’s general equality duty to show it is taking measures to stop discrimination happening, all staff should be aware of the types of discrimination and unlawful behaviour detailed in the Act. They should be aware of the aspects of a person’s identity (Protected Characteristics) that the Act relates to; how equality law applies to them; the standards of behaviour expected; and how unacceptable conduct will be dealt with. Further information is contained in our guidance -The Equality Act 2010 – FAQs and Key Information for Schools.

In their respective guidance documents, ‘Good equality practice for employers: equality policies, equality training and monitoring’ and ‘Prevent discrimination: Support equality’, EHRC and ACAS advise that the starting point for organisations, large or small, to show a commitment to equality, is to have an Equality Policy. It is also recommended that staff equality training should be provided and regularly updated. The EHRC states ”if your workers are to understand what equality law means for them, they will need to be told about it…….equality training can be an important part of showing that you are preventing discrimination, harassment and victimisation in your organisation”. ACAS states that training should be “…supported from the top, for all staff, managers and executives……” and goes on to say that a greater knowledge of equality and diversity can be particularly valuable for those with management and decision making responsibilities, including decisions around recruitment, discipline, dismissal and redundancy.

One Education HR can provide School Equality Assessments and equality training for school staff. Please fill in the form below or call Rachel Foster on 0844 967 1112 to find out more.