What steps are schools, colleges and settings required to take in order to be LGBTQ+ inclusive?
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What steps are schools, colleges and settings required to take in order to be LGBTQ+ inclusive?

An overview of the legal and Ofsted requirements

The law makes it clear that schools, colleges and settings must meet the needs of all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) children and young people and tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying.

 

Equality Act (2010)

 

The Equality Act 2010 outlines nine protected characteristics:

AGE

DISABILITY

GENDER REASSIGNMENT

MARRIAGE AND CIVIL PARTNERSHIP

PREGNANCY AND MATERNITY

RACE

RELIGION OR BELIEF

SEX

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

The Act protects people from unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by or under the Act on the basis of any protected characteristic.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (s149(1) of the Equality Act 2010) places a duty on bodies carrying out public functions, in the exercise of those functions, to have due regard to the need to:

Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimization and any other conduct prohibited by or under the Act – including because of the protected characteristic of sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

Advance equality of opportunity – which may include the need to:

o Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by those who are LGBTQ+ that are connected to their LGBTQ+ identity

o Taking steps to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ people that are different to those who are not LGBTQ+

o Encouraging LGBTQ+ people to participate in public life or any other activity where participation is disproportionately low

Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it – e.g. between LGBTQ+ pupils and those who are not LGBTQ+. 

In England, the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017/353 include specific duties such as publishing equality information at least once a year to show how you have complied with the duty (regulation 4), as well at setting specific and measurable equality objectives which should be prepared and published at least every four years (regulation 5). An example of this might include tackling homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying. Similar requirements apply to governing bodies of educational institutions in Wales (see The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011).

In Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 place specific duties on listed authorities. This includes duties to publish a set of equality outcomes to enable it to better perform the equality duty at least every four years (regulation 4(1). An example of this might include tackling homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying. Regulations also includes duties to report on progress made to achieve the equality outcomes at least every two years (regulation 4(4)), and to report at least every two years on progress made to make the equality duty integral to the exercise of its functions (regulation 3).

It is worth noting that if a set of equality outcomes published by a listed authority does not seek to further the needs under section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 Act in relation to every relevant protected characteristic, there is a duty to publish reasons for proceeding in this way (regulation 4(3)

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a continuing duty of process rather than an obligation to achieve a particular outcome. The duty can be used to challenge a school, college or local authority’s policies or decisions if, in coming to that decision, or formulating or implementing the policy, the body has not adequately taken into account the potential for discrimination or disadvantage based on a protected characteristic such as sexual orientation or gender re-assignment.

In thinking about the implementing the duty, it may be useful to consider:



· What do you know about the needs of LGBTQ+ communities in your school or college?

· How would you demonstrate what steps you are taking to engage with the LGBTQ+ communities in your school or college to understand their needs and experiences?

· How do these needs differ based on intersections with other protected characteristics, such as your children and young people or staff who are LGBTQ+ and of a particular faith?

· How far did you take into account the needs of your LGBTQ+ communities when you last developed or reviewed your bullying, uniform or behaviour policies?

· How far did you take into account the needs of your LGBTQ+ communities when you developed your co-curricular offers or admin processes?

· How far do you understand the experience of attainment of LGBTQ+ people when you plan your RSHE and wider curriculum?

Education and Inspections Act (2006)

The Education and Inspections Act places a duty on schools, colleges and settings to take a child centred approach, to prevent and tackle all forms of bullying and to promote the safety and wellbeing of the children and young people in their care. This includes LGBTQ+ children and young people, children and young people with LGBTQ+ parents or carers, and children and young people experiencing HBT bullying.

Ofsted

In schools, colleges and settings, the Ofsted Inspection Framework (2021) directs inspectors to:

  • Ensure that the school, college or setting complies with the legal duties set out in the Equality Act (2010) 
  • Evaluate the school, college or setting’s efforts to create an environment where harassment and discrimination are not tolerated. 
  • Assess the personal development of learners, to see that they are equipped to understand and appreciate diversity, in particular the protected characteristics detailed in the Equality Act (2010).
  • Look at policies and practice to assess senior leaders’ vision with respect to providing a high-quality and inclusive education. 
  • Look to see that learners have access to a broad curriculum.

 

As well as the points listed above, the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook (2021) asks inspectors to:

  • Check that staff as well as learners are protected from bullying and harassment and that any incidents of this are dealt with quickly and effectively. 
  • Ensure that all HBT bullying is challenged, logged and monitored.
  • Assess the quality of pastoral support available to learners.
  • Ensure that equality of opportunity is promoted. 
  • Look for evidence that difference is valued and nurtured, and that good mental health and well-being are promoted. 
  • Seek evidence that learners have a good understanding of healthy relationships. 
  • Assess how well the school equips learners to become responsible, respectful, active citizens.

 

In addition to the points listed in the Ofsted Inspection Framework (2019), the Ofsted Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook (2019) states that inspectors in colleges and post-16 settings will:

  • Check that staff as well as learners are protected from bullying and harassment and that any incidents of this are dealt with quickly and effectively.
  • Look for evidence that learners feel safe and confident and safe to report bullying, harassment or discrimination.
  • Look for evidence that difference is valued and nurtured. 
  • Ensure that learners have access to a wide range of experience which help them to make positive contributions to society.
  • Assess how well the college equips learners to become responsible, respectful, active citizens.

 

Ofsted’s National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools (2015) and for Residential Schools (2015) make specific reference to the Equality Act (2010). The standards state these schools must ensure that children and young people

are not discriminated against, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 or because of their cultural background, linguistic background, special educational need, or academic or sporting ability. These factors are taken into account in the care of boarders, so that care is sensitive to different needs.

 

The Independent Schools Inspectorate

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) check that independent schools provide a range of opportunities which meet the individual needs of learners, helping them to develop their self-esteem, self-confidence and resilience. They look for evidence that personal development is assured for all learners. Inspectors assess the extent to which learners are taught to be socially aware and to contribute positively to the lives of others in the school or college and beyond. They also ensure that learners are taught to respect and value diversity, and to demonstrate sensitivity and tolerance.

 

Relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) and LGBTQ+ inclusion

The statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) sets out what schools are required to teach within RSHE. When it comes to LGBTQ+ topics, the guidance says that primary schools are required to teach about different families. In their FAQs for schools, the DfE has stated that while it is not obligatory that they do so, ‘primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled’ to cover LGBTQ+ content when teaching about different types of families in Relationships Education.

The statutory guidance states that secondary schools must teach about ‘the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way. All pupils should feel that the content is relevant to them and their developing sexuality’. The DfE provide a useful summary on their website.

For more information, read LGBT-inclusive RSHE: putting it into practice

 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Many schools, colleges and settings find it useful to link their LGBTQ+ inclusive work to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Articles 2, 12 and 29 are particularly relevant to your LGBTQ+ inclusive approach. Article 2 states that every child and young person should be protected against discrimination and Article 29 highlights that education should prepare children and young people to live life in the spirit of peace and tolerance among people from all groups. In Article 12 it states that children and young people should be able to express their views on matters that affect them and that their views should be taken seriously. For more information, look at Stonewall and Unicef’s Framing inclusion through rights resource.

 

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