Equality is about the rights of learners to have access to, attend, and participate in their chosen learning experience. Inequality and discrimination should be tackled to ensure fairness, decency and respect amongst all learners. Petty (1998:69) states: ‘All students must feel that they are positively and equally valued and accepted, and that their efforts to learn are recognised, and judged without bias. It is not enough that they are tolerated. They must feel that they, and the groups to which they belong are fully and equally accepted and valued by the teacher, and the establishment of work. Equality in education is not about treating everyone the same; it is about giving everyone an equal opportunity to access the learning experience. Diversity is about celebrating people’s differences such as backgrounds, knowledge, skills and experiences, by encouraging and using those differences to broaden the learning experience. According to Daniel and Macdonald (2005) diversity is about recognising this range of differences in people and valuing people as individuals, respecting their differences and their different needs. It is also about accommodating differences wherever possible so that an individual can play a full part in the environment.
There is legislation, education policy and guidance that governs further education. The Equality Act (2010) replaced all previous anti-discrimination legislation and consolidated it into one act for England, Scotland and Wales. This was developed as a response to the needs of diverse staff and learners and to advance equality in lifelong learning. The Equality Act (2010) acts as a continuous performance improvement tool, enabling learning providers to meet the diverse needs of staff and learners. The legislation outlaws direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of age, disability, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation. These laws informs how classrooms are run as well as how teachers plan and deliver sessions. For instance a hearing impaired learner could be provided with a hearing loop and note-taker to make learning accessible. The Equality Act (2010) is there to protect both the teacher and the learner and ensure a safe environment for teachers to pass on information and for learners to assimilate this information. As a teacher, I need to ensure the welfare and safety of learners, whilst supporting their development. I provide learners with information for safety in the classroom including the location of fire exits and emergency fire procedures. I ensure that the learning environment will not restrict a wheelchair user. My employer carries out a risk assessment of all learning zones, ensuring the safety of teachers and learners before the learning commences. As directed by the I.S.A. (independent safeguarding authority) a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check is carried out on me, for the safeguarding of vulnerable adults, who I may come in contact with during my work. The Code of Professional Practice (2008), introduced by IFL (institute for learning), outlines behaviours expected of teachers in the lifelong sector. It is based on behavioural attribute such as professional integrity, respect, reasonable care, professional practice, criminal offence disclosure. As well as general legislation, each institution has policies on equality and diversity and how to embed it into teaching in life long sector.
Equality and diversity in relation to learners is part of a set of professional values that should be observed by all teachers in the lifelong sector. Teachers need knowledge and understanding of issues of equality and diversity, ways to ensure resources promote equality and how to plan inclusive sessions that promote equality and engage with diversity. There should also be a commitment to planning to promote equality, support diversity and to meet the aims and learning needs of learners. Embedding equality