Inclusion in Further Education, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News, indeed in Britain in general, has rarely received such attention as it has in 2006.

In his budget speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown whom many tip to be the next Prime Minister spoke of the need to improve participation in education amongst people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, as well as tackling the gender pay gap.

Building on this public attention, the Black Leadership Initiative (BLI) is meeting today in Birmingham's International Convention Centre (ICC) for their third annual conference.

Leadership Crucial

Gathering in the second city of the UK are delegates from throughout the FE community including students, teachers, managers, governors, sector agencies and other interested parties. The event itself is sponsored by organisations such as Protocol National, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the Association of Colleges (AoC) Management Services Ltd and Tribal Education.

The title of the day's gathering is "Diversifying Leaders, Diversifying Leadership", and will look to build upon previous achievements.

The recently published FE White Paper held messages for inclusion and development of participation in the leadership of the FE sector, and the BLI conference meet to discuss the true meaning of "diversifying leadership". They will also debate the current state of leadership in Britain, looking at the issues faced by leaders today.

Presumably, the sharing of examples of best practice as well as the sharing of bad experiences will lead to a positive outcome in terms of the development of this area. As it is the current popular theme for FE, the issues posed by the global economy will also be touched upon. Speaking on this is keynote speaker Zandile Kunene, who is the executive Director of the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership in Johannesburg.

Papers and Winners

The conference was welcomed as an important staging post for the sector by Rajinder Mann, the Executive Director of the BLI.

He said: "The attention that these issues received in the White Paper and in Sir Andrew Foster's earlier review of the future of FE, can be viewed, in no small part, due to the work pioneered by the Network for Black Managers (NBM) and the Commission for Black Staff in FE and subsequently carried forward in the programmes delivered by the BLI and by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL)."

Continuing to speak of this as an "exciting time in the development and the embedding of the equality and diversity agenda," Mr. Mann also highlighted the importance of the BLI in the process, saying:

"As winners of the British Diversity Champions in Education Awards 2005 the BLI leadership model has developed practical solutions in diversity management by empowering individuals and unleashing the diversity potential in organisations. The conference will demonstrate how institutions can value, respect and manage ethnic and cultural difference."

Jethro Marsh

Swing when you"re winning in From the FE Trenches with Lulu Thertrolle!

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