Amarjit Basi, Founding Member, Black FE Leadership Group

I openly confess to a tendency to reminisce at this time of the year, usually through the medium of the ubiquitous festive tunes that seem impossible to avoid - despite trying my darndest to do so! So as we set for a long goodbye to the most tumultuous year that I sincerely hope the world ever has to encounter, the rhyme and reason of The Pogues, John Lennon and Johnny Mathis unconsciously come to prominence. 

Whether this reveals a form of euro-centric indoctrination or a personal penchant for classic seasonal songs is for a deeper and wider discussion, and not for now. What I do know is that they sound different this time around. So when I hear Johnny’s intro:

A ray of hope flickers in the sky; a tiny star lights up way up high’

Is this a contemplation of a post-Covid era, life beyond a ‘Brexit-impasse’ or the resetting of humanity as a lasting tribute to George Floyd? Or does my heightened sense of poignancy, lie more closer to home?

It’s now just over four months since the circulation of BFELG’s Open Letter to Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, RT Hon Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, funders of further education colleges, regulatory bodies & further education membership bodies to address systemic racism in further education, and something in our cherished sector is clearly stirring.

Over the past 20 weeks:

Shaid Mahmood, our member, has become the first ever black Chair of the Association of Colleges (AoC), a historic achievement! Shaid is Chair of Governors at the Luminate Education Group in Leeds and one of only four minority ethnic Chairs of Governors in English FE.

Pat Carvalho has been appointed to the post of Principal & CEO at Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet), becoming the first black Principal in Birmingham.

Lynette Leith, Assistant Principal for Technical and Vocational Studies, Newham Sixth Form College and Palvinder Singh, Group Deputy Principal, Kidderminster College, NCG have both been appointed as Trustee Board members by Education and Training Foundation (ETF).

BFELG members, Janak Patel, Robin Landman and Natalie Garner have been appointed governors at Kidderminster College, Lewisham College and East Kent College respectively.

Robin Landman for his appointment to the Race Advisory Committee of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Robin is a Companion of the Institute (CCMI).

BFELG’s 10 Point Plan has been written into the Job Description for the jointly-funded post of Director of Diversity at ETF and AoC.

Both Jatinder Sharma (Principal & CEO at Walsall College) and Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith (Author of the Report on ‘Race in the Workplace’.) have been announced as members of the Appointment Panel for the new FE Commissioner.

We at the BFELG are proud to have been part of creating the environment that led to these appointments, which we hope augurs well for a more ethnically diverse future for our sector.

One thing is for certain - we must all avoid complacency and collectively determine to build on this momentum in the coming year. And Johnny heeds appropriate words of advice in this regard:

It's all a dream, an illusion now; it must come true, sometime soon somehow!

With our very best wishes for a 2021 that is better for all in every way….

Amarjit Basi

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