From education to employment

Faith Communities Toolkit Launched at Conference in London

A new Faith Communities Toolkit was launched this week at a conference with keynote speaker Bill Rammell MP, the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education.

The conference, held in London, was hosted by the National Ecumenical Agency in Further Education (NEAFE) and Faiths in FE Forum (FiFEF) for leaders within colleges and faith communities. It is intended to focus on and build leadership in a multi ““ faith society, tackling the issues encountered. The toolkit is the work of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL), which was launched in October 2003, as a key national agency within the Success for All initiative, to work with sector partners to ensure world-class leadership within the learning and skills sector.

Bill Rammell Recognises Importance

The keynote speaker, Mr. Bill Rammell MP, said: “We recognise the importance of colleges having the flexibility to respond to the needs of their students in different ways, and acknowledging and being sensitive to individual faith needs is a critical part of our personalisation objectives. It is vital that leaders develop and promote awareness of cultural difference and diversity, and Sir Andrew Foster has rightly identified the need for strong leadership and for leaders to be representative of their learner communities.

“We welcome the lead taken by CEL in this area,” he concluded, “and wholeheartedly endorse the Faith Communities Toolkit as a practical guide, which draws out the valuable contribution that people’s beliefs can bring to their work, workplace or learning.”

CEL Chief Executive on Tireless Work

Addressing the assembled delegates, the CEL chief executive Lynne Sedgmore spoke of the hard work and effort put into this area by NEAFE and the FiFEF, saying: “NEAFE has worked tirelessly for years to bring faith issues into the mainstream and to support and encourage spiritual guidance and support within colleges. The FE Faiths Forum is a wonderful initiative, and we applaud the LSC for providing much-needed funding to support the faith agenda and enable new developments.”

She then discussed the sense of anticipation on the part of the CEL, saying: “As a new national agency, CEL is pleased to lend its support too, and I am delighted to announce our faith toolkit. This is a comprehensive guide which we are offering sector leaders as a free resource containing everything you need to know about religions, as required by the Religious Discrimination Act 2003, and we”ll be offering a free workshop too for those who want to explore the subject further.”

A Changing World

Lynne Sedgemore also spoke of this development in the light of recent political and social developments, notably with the so ““ called “War on Terror” and the terrorist attacks on Britain and the United States of America. “Britain is a multi-faith society, with colleges and providers serving learners from diverse ethnic communities, religions and cultures,” she said. “I believe that faith is a key component of diversity, and that there is a growing interest in spirituality in the workplace and in leadership.

“Emotional intelligence is being superseded by spiritual intelligence, characterised by a range of attributes conducive to effective and empowering leadership,” she continued. “The tragic events of 11 September 2001 changed the world forever in many ways, and the attacks in London on 7 July last year perhaps heightened people’s awareness of cultural and religious diversity; we must harness that for the benefit of all our communities.”

She concluded on a more positive note, saying: “We are delighted to sponsor this conference and to work with key sector agencies in helping develop a deeper understanding of all the communities” cultural, faith and religious issues. I believe that this will yield major benefits for the sector and for our society.”

It is certainly true that a greater level of understanding is required, and it can easily be argued that taking a “top down” approach, addressing issues in leadership, is a logical way to proceed. Equally, the Faith Communities Toolkit will not solve the problem of international action that has brought matters to a head. For FE, the task, as always, is to widen participation and broaden understanding.

Jethro Marsh

Do you think this development is beneficial? Tell us in the FE Blog

Related Articles