Your school has a legal duty towards children with disfigurements

Public Sector Equality Duty Guide

Schools in England, Scotland and Wales

The Equality Act 2010 requires public authorities, including schools in England, Scotland and Wales to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The protected characteristic of disability outlined in the 2010 Act includes ‘severe disfigurements’, which means that schools need to ensure that:

  • their policies and practices do not inadvertently disadvantage pupils with a visible difference
  • reasonable adjustments are made to ensure that the needs of these pupils are being met

There are a number of issues that schools should consider in relation to their pupils who have a visible difference.

  • If a pupil has had time off for medical treatment, ensure that support is put in place to support them to settle back into their class(es) and, where appropriate, catch up on missed work.
  • Ensure that you have high expectations of all pupils. Unconscious attitudes towards visible difference can result in teachers having lower expectations of pupils with an unusual appearance in terms of their behaviour, academic abilities or career aspirations.
  • Ensure that your school’s anti-bullying policy is robust. Appearance-related bullying should be addressed in the same way as any other bullying incident, but schools should ensure that staff are aware that they should be vigilant for bullying behaviour that targets a pupil’s appearance.
  • Talk to all pupils about visible difference and support them to recognise and challenge appearance-related stereotypes. Use positive images of visible difference to challenge unconscious attitudes and dispel the myth that people who look different cannot be successful and happy in life.
  • Schools should ensure that pupils with a visible difference are given the skills and confidence to deal with unwanted attention, discrimination and bullying. Changing Faces’ [Self-Help Guides] offer practical advice and support for pupils, teachers and parents to help achieve an inclusive and supportive school environment.

Schools in Northern Ireland

Although the Equality Act 2010, and the Public Sector Equality Duty, do not apply to Northern Ireland, other legislation is in place to ensure that schools do not discriminate against pupils with ‘severe disfigurements’.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended in Northern Ireland, includes ‘severe disfigurements’ within its definition of disability. Disability discrimination in education is covered by the Special Education Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 and the advice provided above (for the rest of the UK) will also help schools in Northern Ireland ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities to pupils with a visible difference.