Equality is the state of being equal, this does not mean treating people same but treating people as individuals so that everyone has equal opportunity to take part in society. Diversity is about accepting and respecting everyone’s differences. These could include gender, sexuality, disability, learning needs, race and ethnicity, age, culture, religion, values and beliefs, social class etc. Diversity is recognising that each individual is unique and recognising our individual differences.
There are various pieces of legislation that are relevant in promoting equality and diversity, especially within education. One of these is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child 1989. This is an international human rights treaty that is widely known throughout the world that grants children and young people aged 18 and under a set of rights. The convention consists of 54 articles, covering all aspects of a child’s life and setting out the rights that all children are entitled to. Every child has rights, no matter their ethnicity, gender, religion, their language, their abilities or their social status. Within the convention, there are several articles that are relevant to equality and diversity. Article 4 is relevant as it states that ‘Governments must do all they can to make sure every child can enjoy their rights by creating systems and passing laws that promote and protect children’s rights.’ This means that we should ensure that we are implementing the convention in order to promote equality and diversity throughout education. Article 12 is also relevant as it states that ‘Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.’ We must ensure that we are respecting the views of the child at all times and are taking these into account. Article 13 is also relevant as it states that ‘Every child must be free to express their thoughts and opinions and to access all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law.’ Children should be allowed the freedom to express how they feel and what they are thinking and to not feel pressured to keep these thoughts to themselves. This links with Article 14 as this article states that ‘Every child has the right to think and believe what they choose and also to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights.’ Article 23 is also relevant in promoting equality and diversity as it states that ‘A child with a disability has the right to live a full and decent life with dignity and, as far as possible, independence and to play an active part in the community.’ It is important that we do all the we can to support children who have disabilities. Within education we must follow the general principles of the UNCRC 1989 by protecting children from discrimination and negative portrayal, to keep children safe from harm and to address bullying.
Another piece of legislation that is relevant to promoting equality and diversity within education services is the Children Act 2004. This act sets out the duty in which we have in order to provide effective services that are accessible to all and this legislation follows the five Early Years Matters outcomes. All services work together to ensure that children can be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing. There are main features of this legislation. There is the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) which allows multi-agency work in order to identify the needs of children which helps agencies and educational services to support children effectively. There are also revised arrangements for sharing information such as safeguarding meetings. Another feature is having all services working together to protect vulnerable children such as the NHS, social services and other educational services. Another legislation is the Childcare Act 2006. This legislation is a pioneering piece of legislation that has 3 key points. The act aims to reduce poverty to support parents to work and providing good quality childcare services to enable childcare for working parents. It aims to reduce any inequalities that are between young children by focusing on children who are at most risk of deprivation and disadvantage and ensuring they are provided with effective support. This act finally aims to improve the wellbeing of children and focusing on the five Early Years Matters outcomes. The Children Act 2004 primary purpose was to give boundaries and help for local authorities or other entities to better regulate official intervention in the interests of the child. There are guidelines that have been laid down so that all individuals who are involved in looking after children are aware of how children should be looked after in the eyes of the law and state that a DBS must be done before a person is allowed to work with children.
The Equality Act 2010 is another piece of legislation used when promoting equality and diversity. This act sets out the legal responsibilities of services to provide equality to all. This act sets out that services must have policies in place for having equal opportunities within the setting. This act is linked with four key themes: A unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments, learning and development. This act believes in protecting people that have been discriminated against and ensures that employers show evidence that only positive action is reasonably considered and that they will not discriminate against others. This act primary purpose is to combine all pieces of legislation to form the anti-discriminatory law, for example, the Equal Pay Act 1940, Disability Discrimination Act 1976 and the Race Relations Act 1976. This act stops the basic act of discrimination, both direct and indirect, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions.
The SEN code of Practice 2001 is another policy followed to promote and value equality and diversity. This code of practice is used by schools who are funded by the government and this states that when children have learning difficulties, special education provision must be made for them. This code of practice has many principles in order to support inclusive practice. It states that children who have special education needs must have these needs met and that the views of the child should be valued and taken into account. It sets out that parents have the right to play a vital role in their child’s education therefore schools and educational services should work in partnership with them and inform them of the support being given. Children who have special educational needs must be offered full access to a balanced education with the appropriate curriculum. This links with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. This act makes it unlawful for providers to discriminate against children who have a disability or a special educational need. The key features of this legislation are giving all children the right to attend a mainstream school and ensuring that providers do not treat a disabled child or adult with less respect or in a discriminatory manner. This act ensures that the local authority comply with special educational needs tribunal and the act ensures that providers do not discriminate against disabled children by excluding them.