Introduction to equalities legislation for schools

Current thinking and supporting legislation regarding equalities in schools prioritises closing any gaps in achievement which may exist for certain groups of children and young people.

It is also about having procedures and strategies in place to ensure commitment to 'excellence for all' is evident. All schools are required to monitor the progress of all of their pupils from their own starting points towards fulfilling their academic potential in a discrimination-free environment where barriers to their personal, social and academic success can be mitigated and overcome.

The following pages of tools and links are intended to support the promotion of equalities and tackling of discrimination in your school and to contribute to your preparations for Ofsted inspection:

The language of Equalities and acceptable usage changes over time. You may find the following link to a glossary on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission website useful.

The Equality Act 2010 has changed the way the public sector must address equalities, and there were some significant changes for schools. A summary slide of the three main purposes of the new law can be dowloaded here.  The most comprehensive advice and documentation about the act is found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission web site. The Equality and Human Rights Commission have also produced specific guidance to schools about the PSED (Public Sector Equality Duty).

protected characteristicsTo comply with the law, schools should have:

  • Published equality information about your school. To remain current this should be annually updated. It does not need to go into the kind of detail that would identify small cohorts of pupils with protected characteristics, and no information regarding staff needs to be published unless you have over 150 employees. This information should help your school to recognise and identify SMART equality objectives. There is no set number of objectives that schools are expected to have. There should be at least one, which should be stretching (and achievable) and should focus on the most significant equality challenges the school faces.
  • It is likely that a school will have a number of equality objectives relating to Closing Gaps (the attainment of groups by sex or month or birth perhaps, or connected with the under achievement or under representation of one sex in a key subject area) and another series connected to fostering good relations (challenging racism, homophobic language or gender stereotyping, learning about difference and diversity through the curriculum).
  •  It may also be necessary from time to time to complete an equality analysis of the effects of new and amended policies and practices, or key decisions on groups of people with protected characteristics. A suggested pro forma for an Equalities Analysis can be downloaded to print here.

There is now no legal requirement to publish an equality scheme. Schools often do publish a policy o make clear their commitment to equalities. There is a very good example of a school policy which can easily be adapted on the Insted web site.

It is still a requirement that a school should maintain an accessibility plan. Here is the government guidance to schools.


Everyone who is committed to the education of Northumberland's children and young people needs to be conscious of the challenges that face vulnerable groups of people. We develop strategies to target our resources to meet those needs and close gaps in achievement. We hope to give children the best chances in life by providing an education that will offer choices and opportunities.

Data tells us that vulnerable groups include: Looked After Children (CLA), those with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD), Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) pupils, children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), those at risk of becoming Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), Gypsy Roma Traveller and other mobile children, Children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and Early Years children.


Some of these children attract the Pupil Premium Grant, which is paid to schools to support children who might be challenged by financial disadvantage, being in the care of the Local Authority or having parents serving in the Armed Forces. The Department for Education web site has a section about the PPG and how schools can make best use of it.

In July 2013 the DfE published an evaluation of the Pupil Premium, using extensive research to establish how schools have made spending decisions and accounted for the grant in improving and maintaining the support they give to disadvantaged pupils.

In February 2013, Ofsted published a guide The Pupil Premium: how schools are spending the funding successfully to maximise achievement. The accompanying analysis and challenge tools may also be helpful to schools.

You might like to follow the checklist we have produced to help you account for your Pupil Premium expenditure on your school's web site.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation wants lasting change for people and places in poverty, communities where everyone can thrive and a more equal society. Their work and publications about poverty and social exclusion are very relevant to this agenda. Published in January 2013, their report Educational Aspirations: How English Schools Can Work With Parents to Keep Them on Trackillustrates that for many low income pupils the problem is not low aspiration, but a need for parental support to help achieve their goals.

Links and resources

Some futher links and resources to help schools to consider how to recognise and set objectives relating to closing gaps and and ensuring equality in education and provision are listed below:

Since 2002 schools have been required to comply with Local Authority procedures for recording, reporting and responding to racist incidents.

This area of the web site sets out Northumberland Local Authority's current procedure with accompanying guidance. Schools have had to ensure that they follow the procedure, set out in section 2 since September 2008, and have in place effective measures to respond to racist incidents when they occur.

The three documents that follow give the guidance and resources that schools need when reporting and responding to racist incidents in Northumberland schools.

Leaflet: a summary leaflet with detailed guidance for schools.

Form 1:Reporting an individual incident to the Local Authority

Form 2: Annual report to Governors of racist incidents in school

Schools are required by law to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations (Equality Act 2010). All schools have experience of developing policies and implementing practices which directly tackle these requirements. Where those policies and practices are aligned with the curriculum schools are able to influence attitudes and create the potential for real social change.

Every three years the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is required to report to Parliament on the progress that society is making in relation to equality, human rights and good relations. The vision of the EHRC is of a society ‘at ease with its diversity, where every individual has the opportunity to achieve their potential, and where people treat each other with dignity and respect.’

The first of those reports, How fair is Britain? is available to view now on the EHRC website. With regard to education, some of the key findings are that:

Education is a key determinant of life chances

  • Educational attainment continues to be strongly associated with socio-economic background
  • Pupils with SEN account for 7 out of 10 permanent exclusions from school in England
  • There is evidence that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are being penalised by unfair treatment and bullying in the education system
  • Differences in participation in education persist throughout life


The following pages and links are ideas for how Northumberland schools might get started in developing anti-discriminatory practices through teaching, ethos and the curriculum.

Our partners for delivering race equality education in Northumberland are Show Racism the Red Card. Click on the image to follow the link.

The last item is a form developed for use in Northumberland schools to record incidents where homophobic or transphobic language or bullyilg have occurred

Northumberland schools are predominantly white British, (94% according to the 2014 school census in January) and many of our children do have limited opportunities to experience the multiple identities and diverse heritage that constitute much of the UK. Teachers respond to and observe examples of this relative seclusion. Some decide to tackle issues of diversity and contrasting cultures through their teaching and learning. This area of the web site is a starting point for those who would like to develop this further.

Show Racism the Red Card work with KS3 pupils around the theme of racism in football and society, and have a number of anti racist teaching resources for purchase. Northumberland schools can request free workshops in school.

Early years and KS1 children can have their perceptions challenged through stories and activities that focus on commonalities and differences in the UK.