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Black FE Leadership Group and AoC Partnership Agreement

David Hughes and Robin Landman
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The Black Further Education Leadership Group (@FeLeadership) and Association of Colleges (@AoC_info) have a shared commitment to anti-racism in Further Education. 

The Black FE Leadership Group and AoC Partnership Agreement details how the Association of Colleges (AoC), its subsidiary companies and the Black Further Education Leadership Group (BFELG) wish to work together in support of FE colleges in becoming anti-racist, within individual organisation and at a sector level.

Robin Landman, Executive Team Member, Black FE Leadership Group, said:

“The Black FE Leadership was really pleased to receive fulsome support from David Hughes, AOC’s CEO, on the publication of our Open Letter in August 2020, when he stated that there was an “unequivocal wrongness” about the systemic racism in the FE system that we identified.

“Since then, we’ve been in regular contact about the best ways in which to move the colleges part of the FE system back to the moral high ground it occupied after the Report of the Commission for Black Staff was published in 2002 and in the rest of that decade. The momentum from those years of progress was lost, and FE is no longer a sector (or system) that “walks the talk” on Anti-racism. In order for us to collectively move ourselves back to the leading edge of this issue, therefore, it is success-critical to have AoC – the voice of the colleges sector – leading from the front, and that is why the partnership between our organisations is so important to BFELG.

“BFELG is nothing if not an action-oriented organisation. What we want to see is a cultural shift away from the cosy and sometimes self-congratulatory approaches that have characterised the decade or more since the Equality Act was passed, and into a sustained phase of self-examination and implementation of real and sustained change.

“It is for that reason that we have worked with our partners in the Recruitment companies – AoC Services, FE Associates, Morgan Hunt, Peridot and Protocol – that have come together in an unprecedented and game-changing way to implement an Anti-Racist Protocol that was launched at AoC’s Annual Conference. This is only one of a number of practical ways that our “10 Point Plan” can provide a framework for culture change.

“Many colleges have already begun to use our 10 Point Plan Diagnostic Toolkit, launched in February 2020, and the associated CPD Training and have begun their journey to the development of an Anti-racist culture. They are best placed to comment on their experience to date, but the feedback so far has been fantastic.

“We look forward to the official unveiling of the AoC/BFELG Partnership, and to the progress we can make together. We’ve committed ourselves to a partnership that is purposeful, honest and action focused, with a series of aspirational goals that we can measure our progress against and be held accountable for. It’s a great start to what we hope will be a period of real and sustained progress.”

David Hughes, CEO at Association of Colleges, said:

“From the very first days of the new Black FE Leadership Group, we opened up a constructive dialogue about how we needed to work together to address racism in our sector. As part of AoC’s wider work on equity, diversity and inclusion, and the BFELG’s clear focus on race, we’re delighted to have developed a dynamic partnership agreement between BFELG and AoC.

“We have a shared commitment to tackling racism across all of the agencies in further education, including colleges, funding bodies, government departments and others. We believe wholeheartedly that further education and colleges need to be active and vigorous champions for opportunity for all and for social justice. We want colleges to be welcoming, inclusive and safe spaces for everyone to be supported to maximise their achievements and move onwards with their ambitions.

“Many colleges work hard on this, with others carefully and systematically reviewing the way they work to improve inclusion within their organisation for students and staff alike. College leaders have picked up the challenge and are getting on with making changes happen, with their Black staff and students as actors and contributors.

“Despite the efforts though, there is no doubt that more needs to be done. There are longstanding, persistent and significant gaps in achievement between different ethnic groups at the national level which cannot continue to go unchallenged.  There is ample evidence that many staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds feel disenfranchised, some reporting direct racist comments from colleagues and students, others reflecting on the lack of opportunity to progress and a sense that the system is weighted against them.

“The partnership agreement between BFELG and AoC commits to mutual advocacy, sharing platforms and working together on influencing policy and practice. We’ve set long term ambitions, to see improved outcomes for learners, college leadership (including governors) and staffing more reflective of the communities they serve, and for AoC to lead by example with its own leadership team.

“The long term changes are vital, but we also want to make things happen as quickly as possible. That’s why we agreed exciting new actions at AoC Annual Conference in November 2021. The Conference included a significant EDI strand across the two days, with colleges sharing their practice in breakout sessions and an opportunity to sign up to the AoC EDI commitment. We also offered up to 50 free places to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic aspiring leaders, via the alumni of our diversity in leadership programme and from BFELG membership. 

“We have also worked closely together on best practice for recruiting more ethnically diverse leaders into FE. AoC Services, FEA, Protocol, Morgan Hunt and Peridot have all signed a commitment to open, inclusive and anti-racist recruitment practices, using BFELGs 10-point plan. 

“The long -term relationship between BFELG and AoC will grow on successes, discussion and building confidence. Colleges across the country are leading the way and our role is to both support and learn from them but also to inspire and inform other colleges about what is possible. We are excited at the impact this can have in supporting colleges and the further education sector to make long term and measurable change. Annual conference was just the start of putting the partnership agreement into practice and both AoC and BFELG look forward to working together this year to support the sector in tackling racism.”

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