From education to employment

#AntiRacismInAction : Calling London | S2 Ep3

By the BFELG: #AntiRacismInAction: Calling London with Neelam Khosla-Stephens, Higher Education Consultant, David Russell, CEO Education and Training Foundation, Andy Forbes, BFELG.

BFELG  uses * ’Black’ as an inclusive definition to refer to people from ethnically diverse backgrounds who share a lived experience of  the effects of racism.

Season 2 Episode 3 of 7 BFELG Livestreams #AntiRacismInAction – Making the Most of an Ethnically Diverse Britain, aired today, 16 February. The Episode was co-produced by BFELG and FE News and co-anchored by Gavin O’Meara  (CEO and Head of Digital, FE News), and Robin Landman OBE, BFELG Director.

Introducing Episode 3 #AntiRacismInAction: Calling London, Neelam Khosla-Stephens, Higher Education Consultant and BFELG member spoke about  Ant-racism in the context of work. She said that Anti-racism exists in an organisation when people are active in challenging perceived racist behaviours or policies and systems; leaders understand and promote a culture of Anti-racism and people feel free to champion ‘equal but different’ without any fear of repercussion. Episode 3  ‘Calling London’ did just that but at a city and regional level. It was both a provocation and appeal to the wide range of stakeholders who live and work in London, calling all Londoners to commit to an Anti-racist London.

This is an urgent matter that requires attention, resolve and resources. Why? BFELG research has revealed that systemic racism in London is a huge issue that impacts negatively on the socio-economic well-being of significant numbers of *Black people – individuals and communities, and  consequently act as a drag on London’s prosperity and that of the UK as a whole.

London is a global city.  It is the largest and capital city of England and the UK. It is the biggest urban economy when compared to cities in Europe. London’s gross regional product in 2019 was £503 billion, around a quarter of UK GDP and it’s *Black population makes a significant contribution to this.

In a (2014) Boston Consulting Group survey of where people most wanted to work in the world, over 200,000 workers from 188 countries were questioned and London came out top. London boasts world-class universities, creative and cultural entertainment venues, major businesses activities and is home to global brands.

The City is metropolitan, more ethnically diverse than the rest of the UK and with a mixture of different cultures. Of the 68.5 million UK population, more than 9.0 million people (13.4 %) live in London. By comparison, the second largest city in the UK – Birmingham – has a population of 1.1 million. 40% of Londoners are *Black.  This proportion is much higher than that in the population of the rest of England, where only 10% are *Black. Over 300 languages are spoken in London.

The issue is that whilst London may be classed as a world city, for a significant proportion of *Black communities, it does not perform as a world city and prosperity is out of reach. London has the highest rate of poverty of any region in the country. This is something that is rarely acknowledged and certainly not part of the public consciousness or discourse.

From BFELG research, economic and social indicators show that there is something seriously wrong in London. Consider these:

  • Employment rates of all Black communities are lower than their White counterparts
  • The ethnicity pay gap in London is 24%, double that of the next highest region (West Yorkshire & Humber)
  • Attainment of students  in London is higher than any other region in the UK at level 3 (and improving) yet only 44% of African and Caribbean HE students gain a place in high ranked universities whilst the rate is 86% for White students. (In general, GCSE attainment is higher in London than in the rest of England. This is true for students from minority ethnic backgrounds (*Black in BFELG’s definition), for both boys and girls, students who do not speak English as a first language and students with Special Educational Needs)
  • There is a significant under-representation of Asians in apprenticeships and there is a long term trend of lower attainment/achievement rates of apprentices from all Black communities
  • Overall representation of Black students in Primary, Secondary, Post-16 and HE is increasing significantly. Student population in all these phases will be over 70% in the near future yet this is not reflected in staff, leadership or governance. For example, only 12% of CEOs and 9% of Chairs of Governors in colleges, 21% lecturers and 13% Professors and other senior  leaders in HE. Less than 20% of teachers and even less headteachers in schools.
  • The contrast between the success of many *Black young people in getting to university and the continuing struggle of *Black graduates to get into quality employment.
  • The disproportionate rise in incarceration rates of *Black young people 
  • The large number of adults trapped in low paid insecure jobs, many of whom lack basic English skills. 

In the coming weeks, the BFELG will be raising these issues and much more, with amongst others, the Mayor of London’s Office, leaders of educational institutions, Westminster, London MPs and leaders of industry and commerce.

In the last couple of weeks, a number of developments have caused us to ask more questions: Firstly, the government’s recent  White Paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom,  secondly, the serial crises of confidence – the Mayor of London, the Metropolitan Police Service, the Metropolitan Police Federation, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the public – what will change for London and its *Black communities? This week’s publication –Ethnic Inequalities in Healthcare: A Rapid Evidence Review  – will there be radical action to tackle racial health inequality in the NHS? As Dr Habib Naqvi, Director, NHS Race and Health Observatory says in the Foreword, ‘There is no excuse for inaction’.

10 years ago in 2012, London became the first city to host the modern Olympics three times having previously hosted the Summer Games in 1908 and 1948. Described as ‘London 2012: A triumph of Multiculturalism’  nowhere was pride in the ethnic diversity of London better exemplified than in the brilliance of the Opening Ceremony, the genuine pride and sense of belonging of all Londoners, the volunteers, transport and NHS workers. Who can ever forget, if you saw it, the image of the young *Black, track and field athlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill, the face of the London 12 Olympics and symbol of future generations?  How do we recapture that sense of optimism and hope in the future in order to make the most of an ethnically diverse Britain in which London  and all its communities play a full role?

Today’s guests David Russell and Andy Forbes  as system and thought leaders, were well placed to explore the issues and share their insights into the unique opportunities and challenges faced by London in respect of ethnic diversity, and the success factors in seeking to address these and how to harness cross-sector commitment to Anti-racism and action across London.

Watch Episode 3 for the full discussion and to hear the guests and co-hosts Robin Landman and Gavin O’Meara share their individual appeals for change and their dream scenarios for #AntiRacismInAction: Calling London.

Stella Ngozi Mbubaegbu CBE

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