Do schools have to do LGBT+ inclusion work?
Schools operate under legal and statutory requirements, including the Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty (where applicable) and the statutory guidance on RSHE.
The Equality Act 2010 outlines nine protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The Act protects people from unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation on the basis of any protected characteristic. This advice is based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Equality Act Code of Practice, which was recently reaffirmed in the High Court, and the Department for Education’s advice for schools on the Equality Act.
The Public Sector Equality Duty requires all state-funded schools, colleges and settings in England, Scotland and Wales to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act – including because of the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and gender reassignment
- advance equality of opportunity
- foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it – e.g. between LGBT pupils and those who are not LGBT
To help meet these duties, all forms of LGBTphobic bullying should be tackled, and proactive steps taken to promote respect and understanding of LGBT+ people and the issues that affect them. They should also set specific, measurable and age-appropriate equality objectives, such as reducing levels of LGBTphobic language and bullying.
In England, Ofsted will inspect the extent to which a school ‘complies with the relevant legal duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010, including, where relevant, the Public Sector Equality Duty and the Human Rights Act 1998’. Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook states that ‘records and analysis of bullying, discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour, either directly or indirectly, including racist, sexist, disability and homophobic/biphobic/transphobic bullying, use of derogatory language and racist incidents’ should be made.
- (36.) In teaching Relationships Education and RSE, schools should ensure that the needs of all pupils are appropriately met, and that all pupils understand the importance of equality and respect. Schools must ensure that they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, (please see The Equality Act 2010 and schools: Departmental advice), under which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are amongst the protected characteristics.
- (37.) Schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT, they should ensure that this content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum rather than delivered as a standalone unit or lesson. Schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the Curriculum.
On top of all of this, there in an unwavering moral obligation to create schools and college’s that are safe for all students, including those that are LGBT+, or questioning their identity.