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Report Highlights Mixed Results in Awareness of Diversity Issues

The Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) has raised further concerns at the sidelining of diversity awareness concerns in their new report, finding that there were varying levels of awareness of the issues involved with some staff expressing little interest or engagement with the problems involved.

The report, which was based on research that involved some 900 staff including managers, teachers and support personnel, calls particular attention to the lack of common understanding of the term “diversity”, and demands swift action to remedy the low priority that is accorded to diversity issues.

Findings

Amongst the findings of the report were the differing approaches of staff to the importance of the issue. Some saw achieving a more diverse environment both amongst staff and the student body as a cornerstone achievement, whilst others deemed it “irrelevant”. One respondent answered that as there was a low percentage of minorities in the local area, “it’s not really an issue here”.

There was a marked difference between full and part time staff, with the part time staff more likely to be positive regarding the colleges” policies and practices with regards to diversity.

Managers were found to be inclined to distance themselves from diversity issues, with the statement: “leaders should be competent to lead, despite statistical requirements of race, gender or disability” typical of the attitude found. Some also viewed the collection of information on diversity as an end in its own right, reducing it to what was in their eyes a “paper ““ shuffling exercise”.

What is Diversity?

There was a general lack of understanding of the term “diversity, with most respondents ignoring disability and age and focusing on race and gender. Many also viewed diversity as something needed in the student population rather than the staff. And, in spite of evidence to the contrary, most felt that increasing diversity was bad from the point of view of successful business practice.

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The report also found that managers from under ““ represented groups, such as black and ethnic minority groups, encountered barriers and hurdles in their development towards being leaders and managers, with one respondent calling career development “a race over hurdles”. Better provision of mentoring services and customised training were deemed to have been welcomed, with the more generalised approach much less popular.

LSDA Responds

Andrew Thomson, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Development Agency said: “This report shows varying practice in relation to diversity and some evidence of complacency, although there are some encouraging signs that the importance of diversity is being taken more seriously.

“But there is still an urgent need to attract more managers from black and minority ethic groups into senior leadership positions within education and training.. A diverse staff, for instance, is in a stronger position to meet the need of diverse students, offer a richer and more effective leadership, and provide leadership and role models for learners.”

LSDA’s subsidiary company the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) will be taking forward some of the issues raise in the report. CEL has already run several masterclasses on diversity for managers. Their chief executive, Lynne Sedgemore, said that whilst there were disappointing elements to the report, it highlighted that there are “committed learning providers whose actions are moving towards not only diversity but also greater inclusion.”

Jethro Marsh

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