Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

inclusive education in the UK – no racial discrimination

Legislation

The following information reflects UK law before 1 October 2010, when the Equality Act 2010 came into force, and will be updated in due course. In the mean time please see the Equality Act 2010 page for further details.

The main laws relating to racial discrimination in education are:

Obligations under the law

Racial discrimination in education is unlawful under the Race Relations Act. Section 17 states:

(1) It is unlawful, in relation to an educational establishment ... to discriminate against a person —

(a) in the terms on which it offers to admit him to the establishment as a pupil; or
(b) by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept an application for his admission to the establishment as a pupil; or
(c) where he is a pupil of the establishment —
(i) in the way it affords him access to any benefits, facilities or services, or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford him access to them; or
(ii) by excluding him from the establishment or subjecting him to any other detriment.

Generally, it is unlawful to segregate persons on racial grounds – under section 1(2) of the Act “segregating a person from other persons on racial grounds is treating him less favourably than they are treated”. But in the context of education, it is not discriminatory to provide “persons of a particular racial group access to facilities or services to meet the special needs of persons of that group in regard to their education, training or welfare, or any ancillary benefits” (section 35). There are also provisions in the Act relating to bodies awarding professional and trade qualifications (section 12) and providers of vocational training (section 13).

The race equality duty

In 2001, the Act was amended to place a statutory duty on public authorities – including schools and further and higher education institutions – to promote race equality (the “race equality duty”). This general duty means they should have regard to the need to:

a) eliminate unlawful racial discrimination;
b) promote equality of opportunity; and
c) promote good relations between people of different racial groups.

Regulations published under the Act place specific duties on schools and further and higher education institutions in England and Wales to prepare and maintain a race equality policy. They must also (article 3(3)):

(a) assess the impact of its policies, including its race equality policy, on pupils, staff and parents of different racial groups including, in particular, the impact on attainment levels of such pupils; and
(b) monitor, by reference to their impact on such pupils, staff and parents, the operation of such policies including, in particular, their impact on the attainment levels of such pupils.

Reasonable steps should be taken to publish the results of this monitoring annually.

Further and higher education institutions must prepare and maintain a race equality policy. They must also (article 3(4)):

(a) assess the impact of its policies, including its race equality policy, on students and staff of different racial groups;
(b) monitor, by reference to those racial groups, the admission and progress of students and the recruitment and career progress of staff; and
(c) include in its written statement of its race equality policy an indication of its arrangements for publishing that statement and the results of its assessment and monitoring under sub-paragraphs (a) and (b).

Reasonable steps should be taken to publish the results of this monitoring annually.

Similar specific duties apply to schools and further and higher education in Scotland.

Education providers also have a legal duty responsibility to record in writing any racist incident which occurs on the premises, and to report these to their local authority (England and Wales) or education authority (Scotland) and, where appropriate, to the police.

Details on how to meet these duties are outlined in two statutory Codes of Practice on the Duty to Promote Race Equality, available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission's website.

Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader

Page last updated: Monday 05 August 2013

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