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The author of a report which claims that Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students under perform relative to their white counterparts has stated that FE providers need to get a better understanding of their communities.

Julie Tolley, author of the report entitled “A Review of Black and Minority Ethnic Participation in Higher Education”, has called on further education to gain a better insight into their BME communities.

Speaking exclusively to FE News, she said: “The research revealed that BME groups are different from each other and have different issues with regard to participation and achievement. Differentiation is the key. FE providers need to find ways of getting close to and understanding their different BME communities in order to be able to provide the right strategies of support”.

“Detailed analysis and use of statistics on all aspects of enrolment, success, achievement, retention, progression etc, is important as is the use of qualitative feedback and focus groups in developing targeted teaching and learning policies and strategies”.

Pointing to a different set of factors she believes to be inherent in further propelling the participation of BME students, she commented: “Other factors such as the ethnic profile of the teaching staff and the availability of appropriate “everyday” role models for students, rather than “high flyer entrepreneurs”, have been shown to be important in the work coming out of London schools. It is worth bearing in mind that appropriate strategies may relate to social/economic class, language or behaviour and relate across groups of students and not necessarily be related to ethnicity alone”.

While these factors are required, she contends, the facts remain clear. As she notes: “A particular challenge for FE is at a sub-regional strategic level where a more holistic approach, say across a learning partnership or area, needs to be taken to address the facts that:

Segregation is occurring early on in the system as the majority of BME groups (with the exception of Indian and Chinese students) enter HE through vocational routes and FE colleges;

BME groups are not being drawn into Modern Apprenticeship programmes;

The majority of BME learners enter HE (and are therefore in FE) at a more mature age and may be increasingly penalised by the current focus on 16-18 yr enrolments and the move away from wider adult participation”.

“It may be difficult for an individual college to address these issues but, collectively, those responsible for 14-19 planning and provision should be developing responses to address them”.

With thanks to Julie Tolley for her time.

View the full 79 page report here

Vijay Pattni.

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