Equality and diversity

DfE aims to set an example as an employer and is developing policies that make opportunity equal for children and young people.


Equality and diversity are critical to delivering the DfE’s vision: to provide children’s services, education and skills training that ensures opportunity is equal for all, no matter background, family circumstances, or need. We enable children and learners to thrive by protecting and supporting the vulnerable and disadvantaged and ensuring the delivery of excellent education.

Under the Equality Act 2010 we have a legal duty to publish information that shows compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty, and to publish our equality objectives. Our equalities objectives are included in our single departmental plan.

Equalities in policymaking and delivery

We work with partners to help our policies support the diverse needs of children and young people.

We are levelling up education standards so that children and young people in every part of the country are prepared with the knowledge, skills and qualifications they need. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this has included:

  • establishing the National Tutoring Programme to expand the supply of tuition and intensive catch-up support, primarily for disadvantaged pupils
  • distributing over 1.2 million laptops to disadvantaged pupils so they can continue their studies remotely, as well as partnering with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data and delivering 4G wireless routers for pupils without an internet connection at home

The DfE is active in fulfilling its legal equalities duties and going further to tackle inequality in the UK. We consider a wide range of data and evidence, such as geography and social background, in our policy-making to support our ambitions.

Examples of our equality analysis include:

Equality and diversity within DfE

The DfE has developed and published a 5-year strategy to create an environment where everyone is able to bring their whole self to work and where honesty, challenge and innovation are encouraged and valued.

We aim to set an example as an equal opportunities employer. We strive to make sure that our workplace is attractive to people from all backgrounds. A diverse and representative workforce enables us to deliver our business objectives.

Workforce breakdown: DfE equality workforce data, December 2018 to December 2020

Dec 2018 Dec 2019 Dec 2020
Whole workforce Black and minority ethnic 18.1% 19.1% 19.3%
  Women 57.7% 57.7% 58.0%
  Disabled 14.4% 14.5% 10.8%
  LGBO 6.1% 6.5% 7.1%
Headcount   6377 7014 7527
Senior civil servants Black and minority ethnic 4.9% 6.8% 9.2%
  Women 58.6% 56.3% 54.4%
  Disabled 12.0% 13.7% 9.6%
  LGBO 5.9% 6.4% 6.8%
Headcount   227 238 253

Source: HR System, February 2021.

Table shows the percentage of employees paid through DfE payroll who have declared their ethnicity, disability status and sexual orientation.

Wellbeing and mental health support within DfE

The health and wellbeing of DfE colleagues is a key priority.

We follow the thriving at work standards to support all DfE employees and report on our results. We have also:

  • published a DfE wellbeing strategy which outlines how colleagues can take care of themselves and their colleagues
  • developed a wellbeing action plan to support staff throughout the winter and into spring
  • trained over 200 Mental Health First Aiders across the department
  • signed up to Mind’s mental health at work commitment to work towards best practice in mental health and wellbeing

DfE staff networks

Our internal support networks help us create an inclusive and diverse work environment for DfE employees.

Our core staff support networks include:

  • 50+
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)
  • Carers
  • Departmental Disability Group
  • EU Nationals
  • Interfaith
  • LGBT+
  • Neurodivergence
  • Parents
  • Social Mobility
  • Women’s