Visible difference and the public sector equality duty in schools

We look at how the public sector equality duty (PSED) applies in schools in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

On this page, we look at how the public sector equality duty (PSED) applies in schools in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The public sector equality duty in schools in England and Wales

The Equality Act 2010 requires public authorities, including schools, in England and Wales to comply with the 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.

Schools in Scotland

In Scotland, the PSED-specific duty reporting is currently being reviewed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The general requirements remain the same but the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2021 will expire on 31 March 2021.

For further information and guidance for your local authority please visit the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Schools in Northern Ireland

Although the Equality Act 2010 and the PSED 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 (Northern Ireland) Order 2005. 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.

You might also like

Guidance, training and CPD

Resources designed to help education professionals understand why appearance matters, understand their legal requirements, prevent bullying and more.