Education: Equality

Department for Education written question – answered on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Berridge on 30 June (HL5626), how they ensure that the UK has an inclusive education system which recognises and embraces diversity when schools make their own choices about what is taught.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

All state-funded schools in England have a duty to teach a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school, and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must also not discriminate against a pupil in a number of respects because of a characteristic protected by the Act.

The Department for Education has published guidance to help schools fulfil their duties under the Act. This includes advice on the Public Sector Equality Duty which requires public bodies, including state-funded schools, to have due regard to the need to: foster good relations across all protected characteristics; advance equality of opportunity for people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and eliminate discrimination and other conduct prohibited by the Act. Additionally, the Independent Schools Standards requires independent schools to encourage respect for others, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Act.

Schools and further education colleges are also required to actively promote fundamental British values, including individual liberty, and mutual respect of those of different faiths and beliefs. The Department for Education has published advice for schools on promoting these values, and has made resources available through the ‘Educate Against Hate’ website. This website provides teachers, school leaders and parents with the information, guidance and support they need to challenge radical and discriminatory views.

The school’s curriculum, including how well it meets these duties and expectations, is at the centre of Ofsted’s school inspections. Ofsted will expect a good curriculum to equip pupils for life in modern Britain. Inspectors will look at how well schools are developing pupils’ understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. They will take account of pupils’ understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures at the school and further afield; pupils’ ability to recognise and value the things we share in common across cultural, religious, social and socio-economic communities; and pupils’ interest in exploring, improving understanding of and showing respect for different faiths and cultural diversity and the extent to which they understand, accept and respect diversity. Ofsted’s school inspection handbook also sets the expectation that in a school with ‘good’ personal development, the school promotes equality of opportunity and diversity effectively. As part of assessing the school’s leadership and management, inspectors also consider the school’s adherence to its duties under the Equality Act 2010.

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