Senior Managers and Head Teachers should note that there has been a large amount of legislative change in recent years that address the issue of sexual orientation in both the workplace and in service provision.
As schools are both an employer and a service provider, all legislation is relevant to schools.
Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2008
Parliament passed important new legal protections against incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation on Wednesday 7 May 2008. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill received Royal Assent on 8 May, another historic step towards legal equality. Many people in Britain are subject to hatred and verbal and physical violence or live in fear because of their sexual orientation - the new offence is much needed and will help mitigate that violence.The new offence will tackle serious acts of hatred directed towards lesbian and gay people. These include homophobic song lyrics, available to buy in Britain, which encourage the torture and murder of gay people and violently homophobic publications and websites, available to the general public. Such materials create great fear and promote inflammatory myths and misconceptions as fact, undermining community cohesion.
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 (the Regulations) outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. This new provision was not previously covered by the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. The Regulations were approved by the House of Commons on the 19th March 2007 and after debate by the House of Lords on the 21st March 2007. The Regulations came into effect on the 30th April 2007.
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
The Government introduced legislation in 2003 to protect employees and students in further and higher education from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The Regulations make it illegal to discriminate against, victimise or harass, anyone on grounds of their sexual orientation. Where there is a genuine occupational requirement for a person to be of a particular orientation, employers may treat job applicants differently in those grounds. The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 cover England, Wales and Scotland. There is similar legislation in Northern Ireland.
The Civil Partnerships Act 2004
The Civil Partnership Act extends many of the benefits currently available to married couples to same sex couples, including entitlement to pension rights. Schools need to revise forms and paperwork that refers to Marital status - this needs to be amended to Relationship Status. Schools should consider the effect of this legislation on the parent body and children of same-sex relationships.
The Government has also amended other legislation to ensure that equality of opportunity exists for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.
The most relevant changes for Education Institutions include:
changes to immigration rules to allow those who are unable to marry such as same sex couples, (until the Civil Partnerships Act is implemented) the right to remain in the country;
the extension of adoption, paternity and flexible working rights to same sex partners.
Human Rights Act 1998
Responding to advocacy, campaigning and lobbying by groups such as Stonewall and Schools’ Out, as part of broader work to prevent further hate crimes, building on findings from the Stephen Lawrence enquiry, and linked to the process of implementing new human rights legislation, there has, since 1997, been an increasing awareness among policy-makers of the need to address homophobic practices – both in and out of school.
Every Child Matters
Addressing homophobia supports the delivery of the outcomes from Every Child Matters and Safeguarding Children to create a safe environment for learning. Bullying in schools impacts on the emotional health of young people, which may affect attainment, attendance, truancy and criminal activity within local communities.
It is therefore recognised that antibullying should be a priority for all schools and services. The OFSTED framework for September 2005 requires inspectors to report how a school is promoting the five outcomes of Every Child Matters (DfES 2004):
|Five outcomes of Every Child Matters||Issues related to addressing sexuality/homophobia|
Sex and relationships education
Challenging and reporting homophobia and homophobic bullying
|Enjoying and Achieving|
Learning in an environment free from homophobia
|Making a positive contribution|
All young people able to participate regardless of their sexuality
Young people have the same opportunity to realise their potential
On 10 July 2003 the House of Lords voted to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act in England and Wales. This followed a similar vote in the House of Commons in March. The repeal of Section 28 became law in November 2003. The existence of Section 28 caused confusion and harm. Teachers were confused about what they could and could not say and do, and whether they could help pupils to face homophobic bullying and abuse. Local authorities were unclear as to what legitimate services they could provide for lesbian, gay and bisexual members of their communities. It was often used incorrectly by those who provide education and services for young people, as an excuse to do nothing to support young LGB people. Now that it has been repealed there is no excuse for inaction.
80% of UK schools are aware of homophobic bullying incidents
6% of schools have policies targeting homophobic bullying
About 1 in 3 young LGBTs self-harm or attempt suicideMore facts >>