"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4
The Equality Act 2010 introduced a single Public Sector Equality Duty (sometimes also referred to as the ‘general duty’) that applies to public bodies, including maintained schools and Academies, and which extends to all protected characteristics – race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. This combined equality duty came into effect in April 2011. It has three main elements. In carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act,
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it,
- Foster good relations across all characteristics – between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
This duty requires schools to adopt a proactive approach, mainstreaming disability equality into all decisions and activities. The duty does not just apply to disabled pupils; it applies to any non-educational services schools provide. The duty applies also to parents, members of staff, visitors to the school, local community members and to potential pupils of the future. Schools can implement the general duty by actively reviewing all their policies, procedures and planned access improvements to remove barriers, with a view, for example, to greater recruitment and retention of disabled staff, greater participation of disabled pupils, disabled parents and community members.