What about discrimination by academies/free schools?

The short answer is that it is unlawful for academies/free schools to discriminate by reference to race, sex, disability and so on.

That is because the Equality Act 2010 provisions on discrimination apply to all schools, of whatever kind.

The detail is set out in chapter 1 of part 6 of the 2010 Act.

By section 85 of that Act:

“(1) The responsible body of a school to which this section applies must not discriminate against a person—(a) in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a pupil; (b) as to the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a pupil; (c) by not admitting the person as a pupil.

(2) The responsible body of such a school must not discriminate against a pupil—(a) in the way it provides education for the pupil; (b) in the way it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service; (c) by not providing education for the pupil; (d) by not affording the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service; (e) by excluding the pupil from the school; (f) by subjecting the pupil to any other detriment.

(3) The responsible body of such a school must not harass—(a) a pupil; (b) a person who has applied for admission as a pupil.

(4) The responsible body of such a school must not victimise a person—(a) in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a pupil; (b) as to the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a pupil; (c) by not admitting the person as a pupil.

(5) The responsible body of such a school must not victimise a pupil—(a) in the way it provides education for the pupil; (b) in the way it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service; (c) by not providing education for the pupil;  (d) by not affording the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service; (e) by excluding the pupil from the school; (f) by subjecting the pupil to any other detriment.”

The ‘discrimination’ in question can be discrimination relating to disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race religion or belief, sex;sexual orientation

Those are known as ‘protected characteristics’.

Note however, that schools are not bound by the prohbitions on age discrimination and discrimination on grounds of marital status which apply to other organisations.

For each area which is covered, the basic rules are the same:

In very simple terms, ‘discrimination’ means:

  • treating someone less favourably ‘because of’ a protected characteristics – what is known  as ‘direct discrimination’
  • applying some rule which impacts particularly negatively on people with a protected characteristic (eg it will impact particularly badly on disabled pupils, or people who are not Jewish, or girls) – ‘indirect discrimination’

Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that when you look into the detail.

There are also special extra rules and protections for disability.

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