In 2010, the Equality Act replaced all pre-existing discrimination law, by bringing together 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single law to provide a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.
Early years providers, eg day care providers, nurseries, childminders, accredited childminder networks, preschools, playgroups, and children’s centres all have the same duties as other service providers.
The purpose of the Equality Act is that everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work or when using services. It protects people from discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics. These are known as the nine protected characteristics. New positive action provisions in the Equality Act allow early years providers to target measures that are designed to alleviate disadvantages experienced by, or to meet the particular needs of, children and/or families with particular protected characteristics.
Under the Equality Act, Early Years Providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children. The aim of making adjustments is, as far as possible, to remove any disadvantage faced by disabled children.
A copy of the Equality Act 2010 and further information can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website.
The Public Sector Equality Duty
Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 is The Public Sector Equality Duty which came into force on 5 April 2011. This requires early years providers to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
These are commonly known as the three general duties.
In order to help early years providers meet the general equality duty, there are two specific duties that they are required to carry out. These are to:
- Publish information to demonstrate how they are complying with the equality duty
- Prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objectives
Read more about the Public Sector Equality Duty
An Evidence Matrix and Gap Analysis document is available – this will help Early Years Providers to collate information on how they are meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty and to identify where further improvement is necessary.
Early Years Foundation Stage
The 2012 Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework (EYFS) supports the need for Early Years Providers to meet the Public Sector Equality Duty. The EYFS sets out the requirement to have and implement a policy and procedures to promote equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported, specifically:
- How the individual needs of all children will be met
- Arrangements for reviewing, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of inclusive practices that promote and value diversity and difference
- How inappropriate attitudes and practices will be challenged
- How children will be encouraged to value and respect others
Although the Ofsted framework/evaluation schedule does not specifically state the need to demonstrate compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty or the Equality Act 2010, it is implicit throughout and is therefore likely to be considered during any inspection.
The Norfolk Context
Within Norfolk, early years providers’ obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty are also recognised and acknowledged.
Our Specification for Children’s Centres (PFS11) demands that every children’s centre must provide an equality named coordinator (ENCO). It is the role of the ENCO to work collaboratively with all staff, families and partners to coordinate and monitor the equality requirements of all children aged 0-5, families and the children’s centre, proactively enhancing and promoting inclusive practice and removing barriers to inclusion.
For settings and childminders, Norfolk’s Local Agreement (based on the Early Education and Childcare Guidance for Local Authorities) requires providers to promote equality and inclusion, particularly for disadvantaged families, looked after children, children in need and children with disabilities or special educational needs by removing barriers of access to early education and working with parents to give each child support to fulfill their potential . Whilst it is not currently a formal requirement for settings to have an Equality Named Coordinator, it is strongly recommended as good practice to do so.
For more information read the Equality Policy Information.