From education to employment

Just One More Thing: FE sector comes together to progress its journey on tackling racial inequality 

College Chairs, CEOs and Governance professionals from around the country came together yesterday (28 February) for an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion conference.  

This addressed some of the issues being faced by college leaders, as well as discussing solutions and sharing best practice. 

Hosted by London South East Colleges at its Bromley Campus during Love Our Colleges Week, this event was the first in a series of five thematic conferences, supported by the FE Commissioner and sponsored by the DfE. 

Entitled ‘Just One More Thing’, this series follows on from the ‘Just One Thing’ initiative, which included events and workshops for FE leaders, to support them in their roles. 

The theme for the event was EDI. It featured speakers from a range of sectors, with representatives from the NHS, HE institutions and employers as well as from colleges. Panel discussions and breakout groups also took place, facilitated by Mark Malcolmson CBE, CEO of City Lit. 

FE Commissioner, Shelagh Legrave CBE DL, opened the event. Welcoming guests, she said

This is such an important subject for us to tackle, as we need to achieve equality for all, across our sector. Understanding more about the issues being faced will enable us to better identify the solutions – and set out the journey we need to take to get there. 

“What’s important for me is that we talk about it. Achieving our EDI goals will not happen on its own. We need to be proactive and support our staff and students. Diversity in all its forms is crucial within an organisation, you can’t be successful without it. 

“There is some excellent, emerging practice in this field and I very much hope that’s today’s event will catalyse the sharing of this right across our sector and effect truly positive change.” 

  Several representatives from LSEC spoke about their personal experiences and their work to promote EDI – including Chaplain Claudette Douglas; Chief People Officer, Janet Curtis-Broni; EDI officer, Leah Stone; and Student Experience Advisor, Shakira Martin. 

Topics covered by the two discussion panels were Talent Management and What FE can learn from other sectors. Participants included: 

  • Dr Maxine Room CBE, Associate Director, Black Leadership Group 
  • Elton D’Souza National Leader of Governance 
  • Luke O’Neill (Board Director) and Clare Keniry (Head of Diversity and Inclusion), Morgan Hunt 
  • Chin Okunuga. COO, Whittington Health NHS Trust 
  • Gail Brindley, Executive Director of People, University of Greenwich 
  •  Julie Asher-Smith, former HR Director, JTL Training 
  • Tasmin Shawkat, Director of Corporate Services and Governance, London Borough of Bromley 

Breakout Groups gave delegates the opportunity to talk about ways in which to diversify Board and Leadership teams, led by CEO Dr Sam Parrett and National Leaders of Governance, Elton D’Souza and Catherine Vinall. 

 Reflecting on these discussions, Dr Sam Parrett CBE, said: 

“A huge amount of insight and expertise has been shared today, which will be invaluable for FE leaders. It is clear that our sector is absolutely committed to facing up to the EDI challenge. 

“Key points raised included the importance of student voice; and the need to talk and listen to students about their personal experiences. Providing our learners with high quality career advice is also paramount, ensuring they are aware of, and have access to, opportunity. 

“In terms of staff, we know that recruitment processes need to improve, encouraging more middle managers from black and ethnic backgrounds to progress into senior leadership roles across the sector. 

“We know we all have work to do, but this event is a huge step forward in terms of encouraging open and honest discussions about what can be difficult issues. We are delighted to have hosted such a successful conference here at LSEC.” 

The event was closed by Deputy FE Commissioner, Frances Wadsworth CBE. She spoke about the Just One Thing initiative, thanking everyone involved and celebrating the success of the programme so far. 

“It’s been a privilege to be here today and to hear people’s lived experiences. Thank you to everyone for your support and input on such an important subject. It’s very much appreciated and will positively impact the work we all do.” 

Four more conferences will follow as part of this series, each one being held at a different college. The topics being covered will include: SEND, student behaviour, apprenticeships and people and culture. 

For more information about the Just One Thing initiative, visit here

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