Equality refers to the right of every individual to equal treatment and opportunities, regardless of factors like gender, race, and social position.

Equality is not about benefiting some people at the expense of others but rather helping everyone.

Where does equality come from?

In the 1970s, Britain developed anti-discrimination laws to try and prevent unfair discrimination towards certain groups of people.

For instance, in 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act was passed to try and tackle discrimination based on a person’s sex. Sex discrimination continues to be an issue today, particularly against women.

Below are more examples of anti-discrimination laws in Britain:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

The Equality Act 2010 was brought in to combine all these acts. Therefore the actions mentioned above have been replaced by the Equality Act 2010.

Equality today

What is the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from workplace and wider society discrimination.

It prohibits employers, service providers, and education providers from discriminating against, victimizing, or harassing people with protected characteristics.

The Equality Act 2010 replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the rules easier to understand. In addition, it outlines the ways that it’s unlawful to treat someone.

What are the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010?

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

How is the Equality Act 2010 relevant to young people’s lives?

Discriminatory behavior often stems from ignorance. For example, a lack of understanding of different cultures, beliefs, or lifestyles is often a factor in bullying. In contrast, a lack of empathy – the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another and imagine life from their perspective – can cause us to view the world from our limited frame of reference.

A combination of these factors often results in minority groups – or those considered ‘other’ due to race, sexuality, or ability – being treated less fairly than the majority group.

Educating young people about equality, diversity, identity, and human rights is essential so that they learn to respect others, celebrate diversity and recognize prejudice and discrimination.

As children get older, they’ll increasingly find themselves in positions where inequality and discrimination can impact them: in school, in further education, in work, and wider society.

Teaching children about their rights and the rights of others is important, and knowledge of the Equality Act 2010 will mean children can speak out on issues related to equality, now and in the future.

What is positive action?

Positive action allows education providers and employers to provide additional support and benefits to people with protected characteristics if it’s established that individuals will suffer a disadvantage, have low participation or have different needs. These provisions aim to address weaknesses and make the environment fairer.

An example of positive action would be to provide more support in the classroom to children with additional needs. Positive action is one way for schools to show they’re carrying out their duties under the Public Sector Equality Duties (PSED).

What else does the Equality Act do?

Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

The Equality Act also relies on public bodies (such as local councils, hospitals, and various publicly-funded service providers) to consider how their decisions and policies impact people with protected characteristics. So public bodies should also keep evidence of how they’ve done this.

For instance, if a local authority wants to improve its bus service, it will survey people who use public transport. The survey may find that many women avoid using the bus at night because they’re worried about sexual harassment. In this case, the authority should cooperate with the police, transport providers, and residents to come to a solution that makes the bus survival more inclusive.

What is the Public Sector Equality Duties (PSED)?

All maintained public authorities, including schools, must comply with the PSED.

Authorities are required to actively identify and address issues of discrimination where there is evidence of:

  • prejudice
  • harassment or victimization
  • lack of understanding
  • disadvantage
  • lack of participation for individuals with protected characteristics.

Any decisions to tackle discrimination or advance equal opportunities must be based on evidence and not influenced by assumptions or stereotypes.

How does the Public Sector Equality Duty apply when dealing with bullying?

Schools can use the PSED to challenge bullying. But, first, schools must be proactive in identifying where bullying occurs through information and evidence gathering.

Next, they can implement solutions that reduce bullying incidents where it’s evident that this bullying is targeted at particular groups.

Gathering information is essential for informing the anti-bullying program. Plus, it can support the Ofsted inspection framework, which considers whether pupils act safely and feel safe from bullying. These factors will impact how a school is judged on behavior and safety, and things like parent and pupil surveys will contribute towards the evidence base for these judgments.

The Equality Act 2010 concerns how a school treats its pupils and prospective pupils rather than the relationship between individual pupils. Therefore, if one pupil bullies another because of a disability, the school would not be considered to be conducting unlawful discrimination. For this to be the case, the school would have to treat bullying related to disabilities less seriously than bullying related to other protected characteristics.

Equality of opportunity

Equality of opportunity means ensuring everyone has an equal chance of taking up opportunities. However, lots of people all over the world still face injustice and unfair treatment in everyday life.

Women earn less than men, while people from black and minority ethnic groups still don’t receive the same opportunities and treatment in education or employment.

Part-time workers or those on zero-hour contracts can have less access to training and development opportunities, while people over a certain age may be overlooked for promotions.

Workers for whom English is a second language may not be considered for jobs despite qualifications from another country, and shift workers may not be able to attend college or training sessions because of their work hours. These are just a few instances of inequality that still exist today.

What’s the difference between equality and diversity?

Equality ensures everyone has equal opportunities and that nobody is treated differently because of protected characteristics.

Diversity involves considering the differences between people and valuing these differences as positive.


Diversity involves promoting and celebrating the differences between us. It’s associated with promoting human rights and is based on principles like dignity and respect. It requires considering and valuing people’s different backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences and positively creating an environment that uses these differences.

‘We Are All Different

‘We Are All Different’ is a Twinkl Originals diversity story that celebrates our differences. The eBook looks at various ways that people are different, such as hair types, backgrounds, likes, and dislikes, and promotes these differences in a way that children will engage with.

Beautifully illustrated and featuring diverse characters, the story is bound to inspire your learning on variety and can help create a more friendly and accepting learning environment.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination means treating someone unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics.

How can you be discriminated against?

There are four main types of discrimination:

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination means treating someone differently because of a protected characteristic. An example would be an employer not telling an older employee about a promotion opportunity because they don’t think they’d be able to do the job.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination involves rules or policies that disproportionately impact people with a protected characteristic. For instance, a local authority holding meetings in the evening when people with childcare responsibilities may not be able to attend would disproportionately impact those with children.


Harassment means treating someone in a way that violates their dignity, subjects them to pressure or intimidation, or creates a hostile or degrading environment. An example of harassment would be bar staff making offensive comments about someone with a disability.


Victimization involves treating someone unfairly because they’ve taken some action against discrimination. For example, an employer who treats an employee differently after they complain about harassment in the workplace is an example of victimization.

What do equality and diversity have to do with learning?

Schools must promote equality and diversity in education. This can create a learning environment where all children can thrive. In addition, if more children are educated on issues related to equality and diversity, then future societies are likely to be fairer.

How can equality and multiculturalism be promoted at school?

There are many ways to promote equality and diversity in the classroom, and children should be familiar with them early. You should:

  • Set clear rules about how people should be treated.
  • Challenge any negative attitudes or language.
  • Ensure all children and staff are treated fairly.
  • Encourage an inclusive culture.
  • Avoid stereotypes in the resources you use; if they do arise, challenge them and tell children why they’re wrong.
  • Use resources that explore different cultures.
  • Choose stories with a diversity of characters and experiences.
  • Be proactive in promoting multiculturalism and diversity.
  • Make sure all children have equal access to opportunities and participation.
  • Make adaptations to support children with additional needs or disabilities.
  • Review policies and procedures regularly to ensure they don’t discriminate against anyone.

Why are human rights important?

Human rights are important to everyone, not just those subject to mistreatment. They protect us in several ways, for instance:

  • They protect our right to have and express our opinions.
  • They protect our right to an education.
  • They protect our right to a private and family life.
  • They protect our right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state.

It’s worth noting that while establishing international human rights is incredibly important, people worldwide are still subject to treatment that denies their basic human rights.

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