Equal opportunities

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

In general, education providers should make sure that students have fair and equal access to the same subjects and that they are assessed in the same way.

All pupils must have the same access to the school curriculum and must be given the same subject options and access to the same amount of subject teaching.

This means that both male and female pupils are expected to participate in all aspects of the school curriculum, and courses or specific subjects cannot be open only to one sex. There are no longer any exceptions to this.

Assessments

All formal assessments - both written and oral - should take place in a fair environment that does not give any pupils a particular advantage. Education providers are expected to provide a suitable environment for assessments.

Teachers and assessors should always try to assess work as fairly as possible. Though many exams are marked externally, and anonymously, teachers should also take care when assessing coursework or conducting oral assessments to ensure that pupils are assessed fairly. This could mean double marking coursework or recording oral examinations.

Deferring and re-sitting exams

If a pupil or student is ill or otherwise unable to attend an exam, schools and colleges should try to find ways to accommodate their needs to allow them to do the exam - either from a different place or on a different date, or possibly allowing them to re-sit it.

However, there is no legal requirement to allow pupils or students to defer or re-sit their exams: education providers can set their own policies on this subject, and it is up to individual students to provide evidence that they were unable to attend an exam.

Sport and other physical activities

Under the Sex Discrimination Act, it is currently lawful for some sports, games or other activities of a competitive nature to have single-sex competitions if the physical strength, stamina or physique of the average woman puts her at a disadvantage to the average man. Case law has established that this applies to children as well as adults.

This means that schools can have separate boys' and girls' sports teams for some sports and separate girls and boys in sports lessons, but only if these could be said to be of competitive nature.

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