The Law

In order for school staff and students to take any form of racist abuse seriously it is imperative the senior leadership team and school governors understand their legal and statutory responsibilities for tackling racism and take a lead in this area.

This section provides an overview of relevant legislation and duties. The information is accurate as of November 2011, however schools should ensure they keep up to date with any changes or developments.

The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is a new law which provides a single, consolidated source of discrimination law, covering all the types of discrimination that are unlawful. It replaces all previous, separate equality laws including the Disability Discrimination Act, Race Relations Act and Sex Discrimination Act.

Further information on the Equality Act and schools can be found by visiting

Protected Characteristics
The Equality Act protects the same groups of people that were covered by previous equality legislation, but these groups are now referred to as ‘protected characteristics’. The following is a list of the protected characteristics that must be covered by schools:
• Age (only as an employer, this does not apply to pupils)
• Disability
• Gender Reassignment
• Pregnancy and maternity
• Race
• Religion or Belief
• Sex (referred to previously as gender)
• Sexual Orientation

The Act covers all aspects of school life which are to do with how a school treats its pupils and prospective pupils, and their parents and carers; how it treats its employees; and how it treats members of the local community.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual accessing education provision. A school must not discriminate against a pupil with regards to:
• Admissions
• Provision of education
• Access to any benefit, facility or service
• Exclusions

Public Sector Equality Duty
The act contains a general duty known as the public sector equality duty in which a public body(which includes the types of schools detailed above) must give due regard to the need to:

• Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act; by removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristic
• Advance equality of opportunity between different groups/people, who share a relevant protected characteristics and groups/people who do not; by taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people
• Foster good relations between different groups/people who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; by encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

Specific Duties
To be able to fulfil the three aims of the general duty, schools and local authorities have been given two sets of specific duties:
• To publish information which demonstrates compliance with the duty to have due to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment, advance equality and foster good relations including what has been achieved as a result
• To prepare and publish specific and measurable objectives which will be pursued over the coming years to achieve the three aims

Racist incidents and the Equality Act
Recording and dealing with racist incidents, amongst other incidents, will contribute to a school’s duty to:
• Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

• Foster good relations between different groups/people who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Through monitoring racist incidents a school will be able to demonstrate that it is monitoring relations amongst the school community, to obtain a full picture of the frequency, trends and nature of racist incidents and to gather intelligence to inform preventative measures.

Education and Inspections Act 2006
Section 21(4) of the Education Act 2002 (as inserted by section 38 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) states that: ‘The governing body of a maintained school shall, in discharging their functions relating to the conduct of the school —
a) promote the well-being of pupils at the school, and
b) in the case of a school in England, promote community cohesion.’

Community Cohesion Duties
In September 2007 schools were placed under a new duty to promote community cohesion. Although the explicit duty on Ofsted to report on schools’ contribution to community cohesion is to be removed (please refer to the Ofsted website for further information), community cohesion will remain within the scope of inspection.

Community cohesion is defined as working towards a society in which:
• there is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities;
• the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued;
• similar life opportunities are available to all; and
• strong and positive relationships exist and continue to be developed in the workplace, in schools and in the wider community.”

For schools, the term ‘community’ has a number of dimensions including:
• the school community – the pupils it serves, their families and the school’s staff;
• the community within which the school is located – the school in its geographical community and the people who live or work in that area;
• the community of Britain - all schools are by definition part of this community;
• the global community – formed by EU and international links.

The way that schools approach their community cohesion duty will vary. This is because each school is different each school and will make a different but important contribution to community cohesion. Your approach should reflect:
• the nature of the school’s population – whether it serves pupils drawn predominantly from one or a small number of religions or beliefs, ethnic or socio-economic groups or from a broader cross-section of the population
• the location of the school (the community it serves) – for instance whether it serves a rural or urban area and the level of ethnic, socio-economic, religious or non-religious diversity in that area

3 key strands focus of the duty is cohesion across:
• different cultures and ethnic groups
• different religious and non religious groups
• different socio-economic groups

It’s important to note that prejudice and discrimination goes beyond race, religion and socio-economic background. Therefore schools should design their programmes to recognise other strands of the equalities agenda – including gender, sexual orientation, disability and age.

Safeguarding Children and Young People
Under the Children Act 1989 a bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection concern when there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’. Where this is the case, the school staff should report their concerns to their local authority children’s social care. Even where safeguarding is not considered to be an issue, schools may need to draw on a range of external services to support the pupil who is experiencing bullying, or to tackle any underlying issue which has contributed to a child doing the bullying.

Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1198 racist incidents can be regarded as racially aggravated offences. When racial motivation or hostility is proved to be a factor in a criminal offence this increases the seriousness of the offence and results in a heavier sentence. For racially aggravated offences, the maximum penalty is higher than the maximum for the basic offence without the element of racial aggravation.

A racially aggravated offences are offences where the offender shows or is driven by racial hostility. They are offences where:
• At the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates hostility towards the victim based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group;
• Or the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group.

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