Chapter 13: Equality of opportunity

All children have the right to equality of opportunity in education. Your child should not be unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of their gender, race (skin colour, ethnic origin, cultural background or nationality), disability, social background, sexual orientation or religious belief. This also includes young women who are pregnant or have just had a baby.

This chapter gives you information on some laws that protect your child.

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

This law has various parts that affect children and young people with additional support needs. These are about children’s rights, children’s services planning, providing a Named Person for every child, Child’s Plans, early learning and childcare, corporate parenting, aftercare and continuing care for looked after children, and support for kinship care. There are also other reforms in this Act. This guide will continue to be updated as different parts of the Act come into force.

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Equality Act 2010

This law replaced previous laws such as the Race Relations Act 1976, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It is one single law that aims to tackle unfair discrimination, harassment and victimisation, making things fairer and more equal for all adults and children in Britain. Part of this law involves an equality duty on public bodies such as local councils to plan how they can promote equality.

Race equality

Race discrimination is unlawful in Scottish schools. Under the Equality Act 2010 all schools must promote good relations between people of different racial groups and equality of opportunity for all regardless of their skin colour, ethnic origin, cultural background or nationality. This covers admissions to schools, exclusions, the content of the curriculum, the management of racist incidents and support for parents.

If you believe your child is experiencing racism at school, including racist bullying by other pupils, you should contact the head teacher immediately.

You have a right to be involved in any meetings about your child. If necessary, the school should take steps to ensure that there are appropriate translation and interpreting services so that you can take part in any discussions and decision-making.

Equality for children with disabilities

The legal definition of a disability is “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” (Equality Act 2010).

Your local authority is not allowed to discriminate, without justification, against disabled pupils and prospective pupils who have disabilities.

The principle is that wherever possible, disabled people should have the same opportunities as non-disabled people in their access to education.

The law covers local authority schools and independent, grant-aided and self-governing schools. It also covers post-16 education.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) gives more information on the Equality Act 2010. The website address is

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The Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002

All local authorities must have an accessibility strategy, setting out what steps they are taking to improve access to the curriculum, physical environment and information and communication for disabled pupils. If your child has a disability and you are thinking about a suitable school for them, you may find it helpful to ask for a copy of the strategy.

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The Children (Scotland) Act 1995

All local authorities must provide services designed to minimise the impact of disabilities on children and to allow them to lead their lives as normally as possible.

You can request an assessment of your child’s needs and those of other family members affected by your child’s disability, to find out what support services the local authority can offer. A wide range of family support services may be available including:

  • family centres offering childcare
  • breaks from caring, commonly known as respite care, family-based care or share the care
  • home helps to assist with personal or domestic care
  • family support groups
  • befriending services
  • special equipment and adaptations
  • welfare benefits advice and representation
  • suitable housing.

If your child has had one of these assessments, and is now being assessed to find out if they have additional support needs or if they require a co-ordinated support plan, then the local authority should take the information into account when deciding on the additional support they get.

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Equality for Roma and Traveller children

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that Roma and Traveller children are not unlawfully discriminated against. If you are concerned that your child is having any difficulties learning, has missed a lot of school, or is being bullied, they may need additional support and you should ask for advice and help as soon as possible. You can approach your child’s school, or contact Enquire staff on the helpline.

You can get more information from STEP at

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Equality for children who are looked after

If the local authority acts as ‘parent’ for a child or young person, it is responsible for their school education. All looked after children and young people are considered to have additional support needs. This is the case unless their local authority establishes that they do not have additional support needs. The authority must also consider whether each looked after child requires a co-ordinated support plan.

All local authorities should have comprehensive policies on the education of looked after children and have arrangements for liaising with the child and their parents or carers and with any other professionals involved.

The authority must have arrangements for keeping under consideration the additional support needs of, and the adequacy of the additional support provided to, any looked after child or young person for whom it is responsible. The local authority must review the circumstances of looked after children and young people within six weeks of them being placed. Thereafter, reviews must take place within three months of the first review and then at intervals of no more than six months. Schools should also report on the educational progress of each child or young person who is looked after. The child’s care plan must make reference to their additional support needs and the support required.

If you are concerned that your child is having any difficulties learning at school, they may need additional support and you should ask the designated teacher at your child’s school for advice as soon as possible.

You can also get advice from the child’s nominated social worker, or from the organisation ‘Who Cares? Scotland’ at

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