Promoting the Nine Protected Characteristics

The Equality Act became law in 2010. It covers everyone in Britain and protects people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Everyone in Britain is protected. This is because the Equality Act protects people against discrimination because of the protected characteristics that we all have. Under the Equality Act, there are nine Protected Characteristics:

  1. Age
  2. Disability
  3. Gender reassignment
  4. Race
  5. Religion or belief
  6. Marriage or civil partnership
  7. Sex
  8. Sexual orientation
  9. Pregnancy and maternity

Under the Equality Act you are protected from discrimination:

  • When you are in the workplace
  • When you use public services like healthcare (for example, visiting your doctor or local hospital) or education (for example, at your school or college)
  • When you use businesses and other organisations that provide services and goods (like shops, restaurants, and cinemas)
  • When you use transport
  • When you join a club or association (for example, your local tennis club)
  • When you have contact with public bodies like your local council or government departments

The 9 Protected Characteristics are actively promoted in school through:

  • Our school ethos statements, SDP, and SEF
  • Our school core values
  • Our school behaviour policy
  • Conscious role modelling by all adults in the school community
  • Active engagement and communication with parents and carers
  • Assemblies
  • British Values themes for a day, week and term
  • Discussion within curriculum subjects, taking a cross-curricular approach
  • Promoting articulation by building appropriate language and a coherent vocabulary
  • Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) sessions
  • Religious Education (RE) lessons, RSE lessons and Protected Characteristic talks
  • Sporting, Art and Cultural Events
  • Pupil Voice
  • Educational visits
  • Real-life learning outside the classroom
  • Guest speakers
  • Developing links with local, national and international communities
  • Extra-curricular activities, after-school clubs, charity work and work within the local community

Embedding Protected Characteristics into the whole ethos of SS Mary and John’s promotes:

  • Self-esteem, self-knowledge and self-confidence
  • Respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic process
  • Acceptance of responsibility for their own behaviour
  • Respect for their own and other cultures
  • Understanding of how they can contribute positively to school and home life and to the lives of those living and working in the locality and further afield
  • An understanding of Equality, Human Rights and Protected Characteristics
  • An understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process
  • An appreciation that living under the rule of law protects individual citizens and is essential for their wellbeing and safety
  • An understanding that the freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law
  • An acceptance that other people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour
  • An understanding of the importance of identifying and combating discrimination

Guidance on Teaching

DFE statutory guidance affirms from the outset that schools must not unlawfully discriminate against pupils (or indeed, staff and parents) because of their age, sex, race, marriage or civil partnership or sexual orientation. The guidance calls upon schools to take positive action to deal with disadvantages affecting a pupil or pupils because of a Protected Characteristic.
In order to help schools, ensure that the needs of pupils are met, the guidance proposes that schools consider the makeup of the student body and consider whether it would be necessary to put in additional support. Schools with a religious character are not exempt from complying with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010 with regard to the Protected Characteristics. However, the religious background of all pupils will be considered when planning the teaching so that topics that are included as part of the RSHE programme are appropriately handled.

The dignity of the human person is central to the life and teaching of the Catholic Church, and this is foundational to any policies or teaching on the Protected Characteristics.

‘So God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’

Genesis 1:27

Upholding the dignity of the human person – ensuring that individuals or groups are not disadvantaged because of a Protected Characteristic – is integral to teaching RSHE within a Catholic school context. However, it is not the only consideration. In the statutory guidance, the DFE affirms that, ‘All schools may teach about faith perspectives. In particular, schools with a religious character may teach the distinctive faith perspective on relationships.’ This is further supported by the Bishops of England and Wales in ‘Learning to Love’ a teaching document which provides ‘An introduction to Catholic Relationship and Sex Education for Catholic Educators.’