ACT - The Association of Christian Teachers

for Christians working in education

Schools should not separate pupils?

Schools should not separate pupils?


Schools should not generally separate pupils by reference to protected characteristics such as sex, race or faith while at school. Any separation by reference to a protected characteristic is likely to give rise to unlawful discrimination unless permitted by:

• section 158 of the Equality Act 2010; or

• section 195 of the Equality Act 2010; or

unless the separation does not subject any pupil to a detriment because it is exceptional and its effect negligible (see paragraphs 12-13).

2. In a mixed school, any separation of pupils of either sex that denies them the choice or opportunity to interact socially, or to interact in an educational setting, with pupils of the other sex is likely to involve subjecting the pupils to a detriment because of their sex. This will be direct discrimination and will be unlawful unless it falls within one of the statutory exceptions contained within the Equality Act, even if done for religious or other bona fide reasons and even if the quality of the education provided to boys and girls is the same. The only relevant exceptions are section 158 (positive action – see paragraphs 6-9) and section 195. (competitive sport – see paragraphs 10-11).

3. If pupils are separated by sex (or by reference to any other protected characteristic) in specific classes, assemblies and/or for any extra-curricular activities, school leaders and governors will be expected to justify to Ofsted and other inspectors, parents and the wider community the reasons for the separation. Where a statutory exception is relied upon, they will be expected to demonstrate that they have considered and documented why the exception applies. Outside the specific statutory exceptions, they should be in a position to demonstrate that separation does not give rise to any detriment because its effect is negligible.

Read the whole guidance.


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