Equal Opportunities and the New National Curriculum.

Been pondering about the evolution of the National Curriculum and its Equal opportunities statements.

1999 National Curriculum included the statement as part of its blurb about its aims:

It should promote equal opportunities and enable pupils to challenge discrimination and stereotyping. (page 11)

2008 National Curriculum refined those aims and whilst there is no explicit mention of equal opportunities it does state it aims to create responsible citizens who:

  • “appreciate the benefits of diversity”
  • “challenge injustice, are committed to human rights  and strive to live peaceably with others”

2013- The latest draft of the National Curriculum Document (July 2013) no longer has anything about equal opportunities in its aims (page 5) but the specific inclusion statement (page 8) includes

“Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.”

Which is positive, but striking was that “pregnancy and maternity”, “Age” and “Gender Reassignment” are missing from this list despite them also being protected characteristics under the Equality Act and all things that may also affect school students.

On reading the Equality Act Impact Assessment (Which David Cameron announced in Nov 2012 the Government would no longer be carrying out) The possible equalities impacts of the national curriculum inclusion statement is on Page 13 and states

The national curriculum framework document includes an inclusion statement that reaffirms schools’ duties under equalities legislation, revising the current inclusion
statement which is now out of date in relation to the rights of the protected groups covered by the 2010 Equality Act (e.g. relating to disability, sex, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief). The inclusion statement sets out that teachers must determine the support and teaching interventions their pupils need to participate fully in all parts of the school curriculum, including the national curriculum. The statement also gives teachers and teaching staff the freedom to teach the national curriculum in line with pupils’ specific and individual needs and make reasonable adjustments.”

So whilst the Impact Assessment relating to the inclusion statement mentions gender identity- the inclusion statement in the document itself does not!? HMMMMMMM!

In the Impact Assessment introduction the document states “Within a school context, the most relevant protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) are pupil disability; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin); religion or belief (including lack of religion/belief); sex; and sexual orientation“. Which again erases transgender issues which are likely to be experienced in school contexts. The legal definition of Gender Reassignment basically means anyone who transgendered and   does not specify a Gender Recognition Certificate is needed therefore will include school students (as to get a gender recognition certificate you would need to be over 18 and have lived in your new gender for at least two years ie. may not effect school students) but I am not sure as I thought Gender Identity would have been protected and I would welcome comment from those more expert than I on Trans equality laws.

I also found it interesting that DfE when carrying out the consultation asked specific questions about the Equality Act and they state:

“The responses to the public consultation that covered the possible impact of the new national curriculum on pupils with protected characteristics most frequently referred to disability, ethnicity and belief/religion, with sex and sexuality being flagged in a handful of cases (and no mention being made of age, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or being married).” (emphasis mine)

However if you read this response to the Draft National Curriculum from the Sex Education Forum which I helped draft you will see Transgender Identities are specifically referred too, although Gender reassignment not specifically, but it is disappointing this was not acknowledged.

Unfortunately the latest consultation on the National Curriculum Draft (there have been many!) closed on the 8th August.  On reflection I would like to see Gender Identity and Pregnancy and Maternity specifically included within the inclusion statement as issues that teachers should not discriminate against.

What do you think?


3 thoughts on “Equal Opportunities and the New National Curriculum.

  1. yes- from my (limited) experience, transgender issues seem off the radar for schools. My daughter described how the subject was touched briefly on in a PSHE lesson by a teacher who gave misinformation (through ignorance); she then permitted offensive jokes from some children. Those children with trans parents, or who are themselves trans, keep very quiet about it. Meanwhile, Stonewall come to the school to educate about LG&B issues….

  2. My understanding is law on gender reassignment would cover a young person expressing their gender identity as different to that which would be perceived as the stereoptypical norm of their biological sex and so would cover child or young person of any age (ie not require gender recognition certificate, but requiring some form of social transition ie name change / clothes change). A child with a gender identity which doesn’t ‘fit’ with stereotypical norms but hasn’t transitioned in any way would I guess be protected by protected group of sex (or sexual orientation as may be likely to suffer homophobia…)

    Does this help or is this what you’ve said already? Key message to schools, as always being about keeping all children and young people safe to learn.

    • Thanks for the comment Sam. Yes that is my understanding now too having discussed it more on twitter. My issue is the draft national curriculum is omitting gender reassignment as a characteristic (although it oddly mentions it within its EqAIA) which it clearly should to send a message to teachers to include transgender equality within their existing equalities work. Perhaps the addition of the maternity characteristic is a step too far as the interpretation might be an expectation on school students to get pregnant!

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