Summaries of Legislation and guidance

The information that we have drawn on in answering each of the questions presented in this toolkit comes from a variety of legislation (or laws), government guidance or research. Ones which are used the most are summarized below and presented in alphabetical order. Links to the full text has been provided.



The Civil Partnership Act [2005]

This law allows lesbian and gay couples to effectively get married. It grants all the legal protections that marriage provides to straight couples. This includes next of kin status, automatic rights to inheritance and certain tax benefits.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act [2008]

This bill offers legal protection against incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation. It covers serious acts of hatred directed towards lesbian and gay people including homophobic song lyrics, available to buy in Britain, which encourage the torture and murder of gay people and violently homophobic publications and websites, available to the general public


The Education and Inspection Act [2006]

This allows all teachers to impose disciplinary penalties for inappropriate behaviour and gives Head Teachers the power to control the behaviour of pupils outside of school “to such extent as is reasonable.” This allows for bullies who wait until after school to be punished by the school. It is particularly useful in relation to cyberbullying. In certain circumstances it allows schools to confiscate mobile phones. This bill promotes "community cohesion".


The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) [2007]

This Act will be useful for you if you are trying to prove that a teacher, student, senior management team or school has discriminated against you because of real or perceived sexual orientation. The Equality Act makes discrimination against someone for their real or perceived sexual orientation illegal in the provision of goods, services and facilities. It very clearly defines discrimination and includes direct discrimination and indirect discrimination in its policy. Section 13 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations says that all students have an equal right to education, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation.


The Gender Equality Duty [2007]

Under the Gender Equality Duty or GED, all public authorities must demonstrate that they are promoting equality for women and men and that they are working to eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment. You are protected under this law if you are experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The Gender Equality Duty also includes protection for those who “stray” from gender norms, as it is about recognising that girls do not have to behave in stereotypically feminine ways to be girls and boys don’t have to behave in stereotypically masculine ways to be boys. The duty also notes that homophobia in a school setting restricts the implementation of this Duty.


The Gender Recognition Act [2004]

The Gender Recognition Act provides trans people with legal recognition for their acquired gender. In order to have your acquired gender legally recognized, you must go through a number of long steps and requirements and must be 18 to apply. However, this law is helpful if you are thinking about gender reassignment or if you are a trans parent/carer experiencing discrimination.


The Human Rights Act [1998]

The Human Rights Act outlines the rights of all people in the UK. In regards to homophobic, transphobic and sexist bullying, these rights include the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), freedom from discrimination, (Article 14) and the right to education (The First Protocol, Article 2). The Human Rights Act is another policy that requires your school to respect and value all of its students.


The School Inspection Act [1996]

The Schools Inspection Act provides the guidelines for school inspectors. It is the inspector’s duty to report on the quality of education and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils in school. If your school is failing to enforce the law or actively support a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students, you should inform the inspectors about it so that it can be included in their reports.


The Sex Discrimination Act [1975]

Enacted in 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act makes sex discrimination unlawful in education and the provision of goods, facilities and services. This law is useful if you are being discriminated against because of your gender.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1991)

The UNCRC grants children 40 human rights. Its general principles are non discrimination (article 2), that the best interests of the child be taken into account (Article 3), survival and development (Article 6), and that children’s views must be taken into accountin any deciosn that affect them (Article 12). Children are defined as being all young people below the age of 18. It recognises that children need special protection since childhood is such an important time of growth. All of the world’s countries (bar America and Somalia) have signed up to it making it an exceptional law.  All public authorities that work with children, including state schools, have a legal duty to ensure all children are treated in a rights respecting way. This includes the right to be free from violence, abuse or neglect (Article 19), the right to an education that develops your full personality and talents (Articles 28 and 29), and protection form sexual abuse (Article 34).

To get a free booklet summarising the UNCRC call the Unicef Education Order Line on 0870 121 4200 and quote code: 32017.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948)

While the UDHR has no legal force and is not actually a law as such its moral power is immense and it is the reference point from which all UK equalities legislation stems from. It is based on 4 freedoms:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of belief
  • Freedom from fear
  • Freedom from want.
It is based on the idea that human rights are available to everyone (universal) by virtue of simply being human, that they cannot be taken away form you (inalienable) and that all rights are interdependent and indivisible – i.e. you cannot remove one right without it affecting another. This is why it is important to fight for other people’s rights even if you are not personally affected.


The Education Act [1996]

Enacted in 1996, the Education Act consolidates the Education Act 1944 and other amendments relating to education.


Citizenship Curriculum (2008)

The Citizenship Curriculum focuses on educating students about how to become informed students. This includes learning about diversity and the effects of bullying.


Every Child Matters (2003)

Use these guidelines to encourage your school to be proactive in supporting the needs of LGBTQ students. Every Child Matters declares that schools are required to support students to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being, no matter what their background or circumstance. When schools are unsafe or unwelcoming to LGBTQ students, they are breaching Every Child Matters. ECM is based on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).


Healthy School Status

The Healthy Schools Guidance outlines the criteria that schools must follow to become a ‘Healthy School’. A Healthy School promotes the health and well-being of all its pupils. This guidance calls for schools to identify vulnerable groups and establish appropriate strategies to support them.


Safe to Learn: Embedding
Anti-Bullying Work in Schools (Homophobic Bullying)

This guidance, created by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in partnership with Stonewall and Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH) outlines how schools should respond to homophobic bullying. You can use this guidance to demonstrate the commitment of the DCSF to the tackling of homophobic bullying and use it to pressure your school to follow its recommendations. It provides schools with both reactive and preventative measures and provides practical tools for school governors, school heads, senior management teams, teachers and school staff.   


The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning guidance outlines school’s roles in promoting the progress and achievement of all students. It advocates for teachers to ensure inclusion by using materials that show positive images of race, gender, disability and sexual orientation. Use this guidance to encourage teachers to use positive language and examples in the class about LGBTQ people. Currently (so check at time of going live) SEAL is mainly used in primary schools but the government is planning on extending it to secondary schools.


Sex and Relationships (Ofsted) (2002)

Ofsted are covered by the general Gender Equality Duty to promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination and harassment. In effect this means that school reports will include their progress (or lack thereof) to promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination and harassment. The goal of Ofsted reports is to make sure your school is following Every Child Matters guidelines which provide protection for LGBTQ students. A “Sex and Relationships” report in 2002 stated, “In too many secondary schools homophobic attitudes among pupils often go unchallenged. The problem is compounded when derogatory terms about homosexuality are used in everyday language in school and their use passes unchallenged by staff. Where problems arise, staff have often had insufficient guidance on the interpretation of school values and what constitutes unacceptable language or behaviour.” The report’s recommendations for all schools include teachers being given further guidance “about content and methods in teaching about sexuality.”


Stand Up for Us (2004)

Created in 2004 by the Department for Education and Schools (now the DCSF) and the Department of Health to help schools tackle homophobic bullying by using a whole school approach. It states very clearly that “Working to address homophobia and tackle homophobic bullying will help you to meet your obligations under Every Child Matters, the Key Stage 3 Strategy and the Primary National Strategy.”


Personal, Social and Health Education Curriculum (PSHE)

The curriculum for PSHE recognizes the importance of PSHE education for lesbian and gay students and stresses the difficulty that lesbian, gay and bisexual students have because of social exclusion, homophobic bullying and lack of support. Refer to this curriculum if your school is ignoring LGB people within your PSHE classes.  

Youth Matters (2005)

Use this part of Every Child Matters, along with Safe to Learn (Homophobic Bullying) guidance to demonstrate the importance of Every Child Matters to LGBTQ students. This section outlines ways that young adults (14-19) are supported to achieve in Every Child Matters.




The School Report (Stonewall) (2007)

This report is useful for you to demonstrate the need for schools to tackle homophobic bullying, and, it provides recommendations for schools to support LGB students. The School Report outlines the current social and political climate for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in school. It surveyed over 1000 LGB students and found shocking numbers of people reporting harassment, slurs and discrimination.


Living Together (Stonewall) (2007)

Living Together is useful for you to challenge your school’s fear of talking about sexual orientation and homophobic bullying. This important research focused on the attitudes of British people towards LGB people. It demonstrates the overwhelming support for tackling harassment and discrimination against LGB people.