Schools ‘using law to promote equality for disabled pupils’


New research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that most schools in England and Wales have been using their duties under equality laws to improve outcomes for their disabled pupils.

The commission said that 93 per cent of schools questioned were able to describe something they had done to meet the disability equality duty (DED) – part of the Disability Discrimination Act – which had contributed towards positive outcomes for their disabled pupils.

More than half of the 503 schools questioned had made their facilities more suitable for disabled pupils, or had plans to do so.

But the commission concluded that all schools needed to do more to “tackle entrenched inequalities”.

The disability, race and gender equality duties required public bodies such as schools to pay “due regard” to eliminating discrimination and harassment and promoting equality.

They were replaced in April this year by the new Equality Act’s public sector equality duty, which extends these requirements into areas such as sexual orientation.

But the EHRC research found that fewer than four in ten schools were aware of the new public sector equality duty.

Sheila Kumar, the EHRC’s group director of regulation, said: “This is a clear indication that the new public sector equality duty can help schools make real progress in improving life chances for all pupils. It proves that the duty is not about ticking boxes – it’s about concrete results.”

But she added: “All schools – be they academies, free schools or comprehensives – now need to take this progress to the next level by taking a systematic approach and using the evidence available to tackle key inequalities and engaging with the new requirements in areas including religion or belief and sexual orientation.”

7 July 2011


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