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Your protection from sex discrimination in education comes mainly from:
Under section 22 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 it is unlawful for the 'responsible body' of an educational establishment to discriminate on grounds of sex. This covers discrimination by:
The responsible body for the establishment will be the local education authority (LEA), governing body or proprietor, depending on the circumstances.
The Sex Discrimination Act gives a full list of which types of educational establishment are covered by these provisions.
Section 22(1) makes it unlawful for a responsible body to discriminate on grounds of sex:
In addition, sections 22(2) and (3) make it unlawful for the governing body of a college or university to discriminate:
Separately, section 23 makes it unlawful for LEAs, the Learning and Skills Council for England, the National Council for Education and Training for Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Training and Development Agency for Schools to do anything which constitutes sex discrimination when carrying out their functions under the various Education Acts.
LEAs and other responsible bodies also have a further duty under section 25(1) to secure that facilities for education provided by them, and any ancillary benefits or services, are provided without sex discrimination.
There are exceptions to allow for single sex schools. However, case law states that where there is provision for single sex establishments, equal provision must be made for both sexes.
The Education Act sets out the duties of Local Education Authorities when a pupil becomes pregnant.
If a pupil cannot attend school because of pregnancy, the LEA still has a duty to provide suitable alternative education, under section 19 of the Education Act 1996. ‘Suitable education’ is defined by section 19(6) as efficient education suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs the child or young person may have.’ Lack of resources is not a sufficient reason for the LEA to fail to provide suitable alternative education.
Pregnancy cannot be used as a reason for exclusion. Health and safety should not be used as a reason to prevent a pregnant pupil attending school. The school’s aim should be to keep the pregnant pupil or school age mother in learning. This means keeping the pupil on the school roll, even if she may not be able to attend for a period of time; keeping up to date with her progress and working with the LEA looking for a suitable time to re-integrate her into the school. A pupil who becomes pregnant is entitled to 18 calendar weeks’ authorised absence to cover the time immediately before and after the birth of the child.
Pupils with statements of special educational needs who become pregnant should be treated in the same way as other girls under the LEA's teenage pregnancy strategy. However, the LEA may need to review the statement in order to ensure, for example, that the placement named and the non-educational provision set out in the statement remain appropriate
The Human Rights Act brings into UK law the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 14 of the Convention covers freedom from discrimination and although it is not a freestanding right, it can be cited in conjunction with other convention rights such as Article 10 (freedom of expression) which may be relevant to a case about school uniforms. Article 9 protects freedom of religion and may also be relevant in some cases. There is an additional obligation on public authorites such as shools to ensure its practices and procedures comply with the Human Rights Act. If you wish to rely on the Human Rights Act, you should include this on your claim form.