On 1 October 2010, the Equality Act 2010 replaced all existing equality legislation such as the Race Relations Act, Disability Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act. It has consolidated this legislation and also provides some changes that schools need to be aware of.
The Equality Act 2010 provides a single, consolidated source of discrimination law, simplifies the law and it extends protection from discrimination in some areas. This means that schools cannot unlawfully discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
All Faith Schools have certain exceptions to the religion or belief provisions which allow them to discriminate because of religion or belief in relation to admissions and in access to any benefit, facility or service. This permits schools with a religious character to give priority in admissions to members of their own religion. The Admissions Code provides that this may only be done when a school is oversubscribed – schools subject to the Code are not permitted to refuse admission to pupils not of their faith if they have unfilled places.
These exceptions allow such schools to conduct themselves in a way which is compatible with their religious ethos.
But the Equality Act does not permit less favourable treatment of a pupil because they do not (or no longer) belong to the school’s religion. For example, it would be unlawful for a Catholic school to treat a pupil less favourably because he rejected the Catholic faith and declared himself to be a Jehovah’s Witness or an atheist. Nor does it allow them to discriminate on religious grounds in other respects, such as excluding a pupil or subjecting a pupil to any other detriment. It also does not permit them to discriminate in relation to other protected characteristics, for example a school with a religious character would be acting unlawfully if it refused to admit a child because he or she was gay – or their parents were.
Our Equality Statement is below: