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Equality Act 2010 (in schools)


The Equality Act replaces all previous equality legislation such as the Race Relations Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act into one new duty. This page explains more about the act in relation to schools.

This duty will cover all nine equality strands: age, disability, gender, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. For schools age and marriage and civil partnership are exempt. It extends protection in some areas. A disabled person is defined as someone who has a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

  • It is unlawful for schools to treat disabled pupils less favourably for a reason relating to their disability, without justification. Schools must take reasonable steps to ensure that, if your child is disabled, your child is not placed at a substantial disadvantage to those pupils who are not disabled.

Schools are required to make reasonable adjustments to all aspects of school life, including policies, practices and procedures, so that pupils who are disabled are not placed at substantial disadvantage. The single public sector equality duty will require public authorities to:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relations

The schools provision of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits schools from discriminating against, harassing or victimising:

  • prospective pupils
  • pupils at the school
  • in some limited circumstances, former pupils

Schools also have obligations under the Equality Act 2010 as employers/bodies which carry out public functions and service providers. This guidance is concerned with their obligations to pupils (and prospective pupils). The Equality Act 2010 provides a modern, single legal framework, and a clearer, more streamlined law that will be more effective at tackling disadvantage and discrimination. As the Equality Act 2010 harmonises the previous equality legislation much of what is required of schools is already being carried out by them. The main new provisions in the Act are:

  • new disability discrimination provisions:
    • direct disability discrimination
    • indirect disability discrimination
    • discrimination arising from disability
  •  new protected characteristics
  •  new positive action provisions
    • allows schools to target provision designed to alleviate disadvantages experienced by those with   protected characteristics
  •  auxiliary aids and services
    • the  reasonable adjustment duty is extended to require schools to provide auxiliary aids and services to disabled pupils. Introduced from 1st September 2012.  

An aid is a piece of equipment which helps the disabled person, such as a special chair, adapted text or special computer software. A service is something that people provide such as personal assistance.

Accessibility Strategy

We must have an Accessibility Strategy and each school must have an Access Plan, which sets out how they will improve access to:

  • the curriculum for disabled children and young people
  • school buildings
  • information

The specific duties regulations within the Equality Act 2010 requires schools:

  1. to publish information to demonstrate how they are complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty.
  2. to prepare and publish equality objectives.

(The Equality Duty is proportionate - the duty will not be the same for a small primary school as they are for a large secondary school).

Not all pupils with disabilities have special educational needs. Many pupils with disabilities learn alongside their peers with little need for extra resources beyond the aids which are part of their daily lives, such as a wheelchair, a hearing aid or equipment to aid vision. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced guidance for education providers to help them meet their duties under the law.

Contact us
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Statutory Casework Team
03000 265 878
Our address is:
  • Children and Young People's Services
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UJ
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