Discrimination in Education

Discrimination could potentially affect anyone at some time during their education, so here’s a guide about what it means and what you can do if you think you’re being discriminated against.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is different and unfair treatment. You could be discriminated against because of just about anything from the colour of your hair to the clothes you wear – but the law in the UK makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of 9 ‘protected grounds’, including age, disability, sex and sexual orientation, race and religion.

Discrimination can be ‘direct’ – when you’re treated in a particular way because of your age, disability or sex etc. Discrimination can also be ‘indirect’ – when something (a ‘provision, criterion or practice’) applies to everyone, but in practice, it is harder for some people to comply with that because of their age, disability or sex etc.

An example of direct discrimination would be not letting someone go on a school trip because they are disabled. This would be direct discrimination on grounds of disability.

An example of indirect discrimination would be not letting someone go on a school trip because they didn’t have a particular level of attendance at school – and the reason they hadn’t been at school was related to their disability.

In Wales, there is commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which gives children the right not suffer discrimination of any kind.

Discrimination doesn’t just happen in education – it can happen in almost every situation you find yourself in. People often talk about discrimination at work, but you could just as easily be discriminated against when you’re trying to use a service, or buying something in a shop.

What’s the impact of discrimination in education?

If you experience discrimination in education, the impact can be devastating. It can lead to

  • Poor attendance at school
  • Poor academic achievement
  • Children and young people not reaching their potential
  • Children and young people feeling isolated

What can you do about discrimination in education?

The experience of many people who support and advise children and young people who have experienced discrimination in education suggests that in many cases, schools, universities and local authorities don’t really understand what the legal position is and what they are legally obliged to do to prevent discrimination. It may be that engaging with your school, college or university, if necessary with the assistance of a service such as that provided by SNAP Cymru, will be enough to resolve the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability First Tier Tribunal deals with claims of discrimination on grounds of disability in education. If you have been discriminated against for another reason, the right place to bring a claim is the County Court.

If you are experiencing discrimination in education in Wales for a reason that isn’t covered by the equalities legislation in the UK – perhaps you are being bullied about your weight or the colour of your hair – you should still be able to address this with the school through the anti-bullying policy.

Experiencing any kind of discrimination at school or in further education is an upsetting experience and can have a long term impact. You should feel confident that the law protects you, and take steps to try and resolve the problems you are experiencing.

You can read more about how you should be treated at school and college in our section about school on our website here .

Discussing discrimination in education

At the beginning of June, the Children’s Legal Centre spent an afternoon listening to 4 talks about discrimination in education – what it is, how discrimination in education impacts on children and young people and what can be done about it. The event was organised by SNAP Cymru, and we listened to speakers from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Sinclair Law and Civitas Chambers as well as SNAP Cymru, all talking about this important subject. SNAP Cymru http://www.snapcymru.org/help-for-families/ offer free and independent information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of additional learning needs (SEN) and disabilities, and can advise if you’re experiencing discrimination in school. Other organisations that may be able to help you if you’re experiencing discrimination at school include:

Meic https://www.meiccymru.org/

Childline https://www.childline.org.uk/

NSPCC https://www.nspcc.org.uk/


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