Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.
No school is allowed to deny someone education or training on the grounds of their race, sexual orientation, religion or belief or because they have a disability.
However, schools are allowed to reject prospective students based on their age: once they are above the national school leaving age, students are expected to go to college or other learning providers.
In some circumstances, in line with admissions policies, schools can select pupils based on certain criteria. Every school should publish their admissions policy and explain the grounds on which they decide which pupils to accept.
Following a consultation in 2006, the government published a new school admissions code that sets out exactly what schools in England and Wales are required to do.
Parents have the right to express a preference about which school in their catchment area their child goes to. But local authorities don’t have to agree with that preference, particularly if a school is oversubscribed.
Under the Education Act 2005, schools in England and Wales must publish a school profile to help parents select schools. The profile must provide details of what they teach, what their recent performance in tests and examinations has been, term dates for the coming year, school hours and their policies on issues like discipline, school uniform, homework, special educational needs and additional support needs. They must also produce a policy statement on developing pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural values and an equal opportunities policy. Find out more about school profiles.
There are no such obligations on schools in Scotland. Scottish Schools Online provides a searchable directory of all schools in Scotland, including education authority and independent schools. It provides contact details, links to school websites where available, statistics and other information for each school.
Every three- and four-year-old child is entitled to a free early education place. Each child must be given 12.5 hours of pre-school education per week (less for children starting pre-school later in the year). This usually works out as two-and-a-half hours a day, for five days a week during normal term times. (It will increase to 15 hours per week from September 2010.)
This is not compulsory: parents do not have to make their children attend. Similarly, not all nurseries, schools or playgroups are obliged to provide free places.