Equality and Diversity

Our schools and learning communities are enriched with a diverse mix of people with different experiences and from different cultures and backgrounds.

GTC Scotland has developed this Equality and Diversity Hub to support teachers engaging with the Professional Standards to:

  • develop their professional knowledge and understanding of equality and diversity;
  • engage with their professional requirement to promote equality and diversity; and,
  • challenge any inequalities or forms of discrimination they encounter.

The resources available in this Hub are to support teacher professionalism and professional learning and are not learning and teaching resources for the classroom.

By gaining greater knowledge and understanding of all types of bias teachers can then consider any necessary changes to their learning environment, their employers’ policies and practice, and their learning and teaching materials to support equality and diversity.

GTC Scotland is very grateful for the contributions of our partners in collating materials and providing feedback on our professional learning modules. GTC Scotland is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Equality and Diversity: A Guide for Teachers

GTC Scotland has created this guide to provide support for teachers to reflect on their understanding of equality and diversity and how it relates to their professional lives and actions.

Professional Learning Modules

GTC Scotland has collaborated with Dianne Cantali of the School of Education and Social Work, University of Dundee, to create two Equality and Diversity Professional Learning Modules to support Scotland’s teachers in their knowledge and understanding of equality and diversity matters. 

Module 1 – Introduction to Equality and Diversity

The purpose of this module is to support teachers and education professionals to develop their understanding of equality and diversity.

This module will encourage education professionals to critically reflect on their thinking and actions and consider how they might fulfil their responsibilities in this area through their teaching and wider professional activities.

Aims of Module 1 are:

  • to explore the Professional Standard for Teachers regarding equality and diversity;
  • to understand what the requirements and expectations are of registered teachers with regards to equality and diversity;
  • to look at the definitions of equality and diversity within the Equality Act 2010;
  • to look at what the report ‘Teaching in a Diverse Scotland’ (Scottish Government 2018) means for teachers;
  • to explore some of the barriers to equality and diversity and how these can be addressed; and,
  • to reflect on this professional learning as part of Professional Update or, for probationer teachers, meeting the Professional Standard for Full Registration
Module 2 – Reflecting on Equality and Diversity as Teachers in a Diverse Scotland

The purpose of this module is for teachers to engage in professional reflections and other activities, and to consider how their learning through the module will have an impact on their practice.

Aims of Module 2 are to look in more depth at:

  • factors which can contribute to barriers to equality and diversity, and the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010;
  • what equality and diversity means for teachers and learners with protected characteristics, and the implications of intersectionality and unconscious bias;
  • the role of teachers in challenging discrimination, assumptions and stereotyping;
  • next steps for career-long professional learning in equality and diversity; and,
  • reflecting on this professional learning as part of Professional Update or, for probationer teachers, meeting the Professional Standard for Full Registration.

Resources by Theme

Bias and stereotyping

Bias is a prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.

There are different types of biases:

  • Conscious bias (also known as explicit bias) and
  • Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias)

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organise social worlds by categorising.

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and is often incompatible with one’s conscious values.

Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.

We should try to become more aware of our implicit bias and when making important decisions, take the time to consider our actions, so as not to be affected by our bias.

This is particularly relevant when, for example, recruiting staff or offering opportunities to others.

We should ensure we question and challenge our own implicit bias and be prepared to question and challenge that of others when necessary (adapted from this source).

Teachers should undertake further professional learning around bias, in all its definitions, to support understanding as to how bias can impact on their actions and decisions.

A greater understanding of bias will, in turn, increase their ability to open discussions and sensitively, and knowledgeably, challenge bias and discrimination.

The following resources may be helpful to understand bias:

Discrimination, harassment and victimisation

Discrimination, harassment and victimisation

The Equality Act 2010 protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation based on a protected characteristic (PC).

There are nine PCs identified in the Equality Act 2010.

The following resources may help your understanding of discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Further resources on discrimination, harassment and victimisation of specific PCs can be found in the Protected Characteristics section below.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is, in dictionary definitions, the oppression and discrimination resulting from the overlap of an individual’s various social identities. For example, the intersectionality of oppression experienced by black women.

The following resources may support your understanding of intersectionality and support you in identifying how this may impact on you, your colleagues, young people and their families:

Leadership

School leaders have an important role to play in ensuring schools and learning communities strive to promote equality and diversity, in ensuring everyone is treated with respect and that individual differences are valued.

School leaders not only have to consider their own role in avoiding and/or addressing institutional discrimination, but also ensure that they themselves are positive role models for the whole school community.

There is also the added responsibility of making sure that everyone is provided the same equal opportunities, particularly in terms of recruitment, to ensure Scotland’s diversity is represented across the teaching population in our schools to support and inspire Scotland’s young people.

Equity

Equality and equity can be mixed up in people’s understandings of equality and diversity. 

Equality relates primarily to the protected characteristics found in the Equality Act 2010, where having equality of opportunity means that everyone gets the same opportunity with ‘reasonable adjustments’ to facilitate this as necessary.

Equity is more focused on whether people are able to have equity of experience, and that this is underpinned by fairness and impartiality.

Ensuring that everyone has equality of opportunity is not the same as ensuring that they have an equitable experience.

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Resources for Protected Characteristics

All teachers should ensure they take steps to minimise any barriers that may arise as a result of protected characteristics.

Everyone is protected against discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 because of the protected characteristics we all have.

The Equality Act defines the following protected characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

Below, you can find sections for all the protected characteristics which contain resources to support your learning and reflections.

Age

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) a certain age or in a certain age group
  • someone thinks you are (or are not) a specific age or age group, (discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone of a specific age of age group, (discrimination by association) (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Disability

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you have a disability
  • someone things you have a disability (discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone with a disability (discrimination by association)

It is not unlawful discrimination to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person. (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Gender Reassignment

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because you are transsexual, when your gender identity is different from the gender assigned to you when you were born. For example:

  • a person who was born female decides to spend the rest of his life as a man

In the Equality Act it is known as gender reassignment. All transsexual people share the common characteristic of gender reassignment. (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Marriage and Civil Partnership

The Equality Act says you must not be discriminated against in employment because you are married or in a civil partnership.

In the Equality Act marriage and civil partnership means someone who is legally married or in a civil partnership.

Marriage can either be between a man and a woman, or between partners of the same sex. Civil partnership is between partners or the same sex.

People do not have this characteristic if they are:

  • single
  • living with someone as a couple neither married nor civil partners
  • engaged to be married but not married
  • divorced or a person whose civil partnership has been dissolved (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Pregnancy and Maternity

‘Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby.

‘Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context.

‘In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding’ (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Race

‘The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because of your race.

‘In the Equality Act, race can mean your colour, or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins, which may not be the same as your current nationality. For example, you may have Chinese national origins and be living in Britain with a British passport.

‘Race also covers ethnic and racial groups, This means a group of people who all share the same protected characteristic or ethnicity or race.’ (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Religion or Belief

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) or a particular religion
  • you hold (or do not hold) a particular philosophical belief
  • someone thinks you are or a particular religion or hold a particular belief (discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone who has a religion or belief (discrimination by association) (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Sex

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) a particular sex
  • someone thinks you are the opposite sex (discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone of a particular sex (discrimination by association)

In the Equality Act, sex can mean either male or female, or a group of people like men or boys, or women or girls. (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Sexual Orientation

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • someone thinks you have a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by perception)
  • you are connected to someone who has a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by association)

In the Equality Act, sexual orientation includes how you choose to express your sexual orientation, such as through your appearance or the places you visit. (EHRC)

The following resources may support your professional learning:

Case Studies

GTC Scotland will be gathering case studies to support the critical thinking of teachers around some real-life examples of inequality and discrimination to help challenge and support our thinking and professional actions. 

Additional case studies are also available in the GTC Scotland Equality and Diversity Professional Learning Modules above.

Case Study – A Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies Class

This case study was provided by a registered teacher

A teacher initiated a discussion with a S4 RMPS class regarding their attitudes and beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.

She asked the direct question, “So what are your views regarding same-sex marriage?”.

After one pupil expressed an opinion supporting same-sex marriage, a boy gave a contrary opinion in which he stated his belief that the Bible made clear that same-sex sexual relationships were sinful and that was why marriage had been designed to be between male and female.

The teacher reacted to the boy’s statement by telling him that what he had said was discriminatory and she sent him from the class to go to a ‘Time Out’ room.

The boy was furious and instead of going to the Time Out room as instructed, headed straight to see a Depute Head Teacher to complain about his treatment.

The boy wanted to complain that he had suffered religious discrimination because the teacher had put him out of her room for giving a religious opinion she disagreed with.

He felt that if a teacher asked for an opinion on an issue in an RMPS class, he should be entitled to give his opinion without being punished for having an opinion she didn’t like.

He felt that by putting him out of the class, the teacher was sending a message to anyone else who shared his view to keep their opinions to themselves – she only wanted to hear opinions that supported same-sex marriage.

The Depute Head Teacher spoke to the RMPS Teacher later in the day to get her version of events.

She agreed that she had asked the class for their opinions on same-sex marriage but then panicked when the boy gave his viewpoint as she felt that any pupil in her class who may have been struggling with issues around their sexuality could have felt uncomfortable to have heard what he said.

She felt she had to be seen to stand against discriminatory beliefs and comments.

Questions for reflection

  1. Do you agree that ‘opinions regarding same-sex marriage’ is a valid issue to be exploring and discussing in a RMPS class?
  2. The boy felt that being punished for stating his religious beliefs on the topic was ‘religious discrimination’? Was he correct?
    1. If No, must pupils who share those religious beliefs keep their opinions to themselves or accept that punishment is possible?
    2. If Yes, how could this outcome have been avoided
  3. The teacher felt the boy had ‘discriminatory beliefs’ and had made ‘discriminatory comments’ – do you agree?
    1. If No, how could pupils who find it uncomfortable to hear such opinions be protected in classes, or should that be an objective?
    2. If Yes, is it possible to have discussions or debates in class on topics like this, even within RMPS, if certain religiously held viewpoints are not allowed to be aired?
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