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In the fifth and penultimate installment of the series, FE News reporter Sara Hashash looks at the failures in matching the areas" ethnic profile in staffing, and academic success for students.

Employment and Staff Development

The report revealed that the least progress had been made with regard to staffing. None of the colleges included had a staffing profile which closely reflected the ethnic profile of the local population or their learners at every level of employment "“ and least of all at the levels of middle and senior management. In addition, although most colleges complied with the legal requirement the race relation act entails to monitor the career progress of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff, it is a weakness that positive action to support staff in achieving this was found to be minimal.

The Greater Manchester Positive Action Programme, involving several colleges in the Manchester area had however taken some significant steps towards assisting staff with developing their careers. In addition, the City of Wolverhampton College and Hackney Community College were found to have taken positive action to help advance the prospects of black and ethnic minority staff.

Despite strong efforts by some colleges, it was proving difficult to attract BME staff that had the appropriate qualifications and experience "“ another area where improvements need to be made. The blurry distinctions made between positive action and illegal positive discrimination was also hinted to be a factor hindering progress in this area.

Academic Success for Students

In terms of academic success rates and achievements for students, it was revealed that all learners from ethnic backgrounds are increasingly succeeding in achieving their qualifications in the FE sector. Success rates increased above the average rate between 2002 -2004, in particular, for 16- 18 year old learners. In this age group significant improvements were made amongst learners from ethnic groups with previously exceptionally low success rates such as Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Black Other learners.

Strategies being adopted by colleges to improve the pass rates of underachieving groups were most successful in colleges with a high proportion of BME learners. The report's guidelines for good practice to improve results amongst underachievers included conducting a review of the curriculum to improve accessibility and appeal "“ such as targeting interests of a particular ethnic group, for example the provision of music technology courses to attract young African Caribbean men.

In addition, the best strategies suggested tailoring teaching to meet learners" needs, progressing at a pace suitable for them and providing skills and language support for those requiring it. Providing successful role models to enhance ambition and aspirations by employing staff from ethnic minority background has also contributed to increasing student success rates as well as the general atmosphere and sense of security within the college, and ensuring that action to tackle discrimination is taken swiftly and effectively.

"RESPECT" campaigns have also been highlighted as a positive step. Monitoring students" attendance and involving parents in the education process by keeping them informed was also revealed to improve learners" prospects and overall success. The report includes a case study of Tameside College where a project to improve the achievements learners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage has achieved considerable success. After just three years student satisfaction with the support they received has increased significantly, and retention rates for 16-18 year olds had risen by 7% for Bangladeshi learners and by 4% for Pakistani learners, with pass rates for both groups currently above the college average.

Sara Hashash

Stay right here at FE News for the final conclusion of the series!

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