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Black Lives Matter - solidarity statement

16 June 2020

A statement from AoC on the Black Lives Matter protests and global movement: The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis has yet again shone a light on the racism, inequality and discrimination endemic across the world, including the UK. We are united with our members in our dedication to standing up to racism and oppression, and standing in solidarity with the black community, at home and around the world. Black lives matter at AoC, and they should matter to every individual. To every one of our staff, to every member of college staff, to each student. As a sector, we are all aware of the power of education in changing life chances, in engaging young people and adults to find their passion. Colleges offer students a unique and safe place to analyse and discuss such atrocious acts, understand their feelings and learn the larger context. College education equips students to do better, in their local community, at home and at work for a better future. At AoC, we will do more to support members in this work, engaging with colleges to understand what is happening and how we can create communities of learning and support. Within AoC we’ve spent the last couple of years refocusing on our equality and diversity work, including working to achieve Investors in Diversity status. We established an Equality and Diversity steering group with members, and work with partners including DfE and ETF to improve the diversity of governance and leadership within our sector. Progress has been slow, and as an organisation, we are committing to have the challenging conversations internally that we externally urge others to have. This includes being open about the fact that whilst we have a diverse staff body at AoC, we do not have a racially diverse senior management team and nor does our governance reflect the society we operate in. We will take steps to understand why and put in place a plan to improve it. As individuals and as an organisation we are committed to learning more about the experiences of our staff and the systemic injustices that face black people and other ethnic minorities. We are committed to organisational change. As a sector leader, we will do more to support members in recruiting successful, diverse role models to boards and senior positions, pushing for substantial, meaningful programmes to support talented black staff into senior roles and campaigns which improve the diversity of staff recruited to college jobs, to present FE as an attractive career with real progression routes to senior positions. We will need to do this in partnership with others and with the support of the Department for Education which needs to play a leadership role across the whole of education. As an employer, we will look to our own governance, our own leadership and do better. We will be exploring the next steps for our organisation’s continued work with the National Centre for Diversity and colleagues across AoC to challenge the status quo and ensure we are leading by example. We are actively talking to AoC staff about this and welcome feedback from members as well as partner organisations with whom we work now, and with those that we could collaborate with in the future. It is through challenge and open, honest dialogue that we will be the organisation, and sector, we all aspire to be.’ We have also put together some guidance for colleges who are thinking about making public statements in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. You can find it here.