Skip to main content

The importance of staff networks in EDI

24 June 2024

In the expansive gallery of life's unforgettable moments, there are snapshots which transcend the mere capture of pixels on a screen. These images possess the power to encapsulate the essence of a journey, weaving together emotions, struggles, and triumphs into a single frame.

I am reminded of this profound truth each time I revisit the remarkable photos taken on the evening of Saturday 28 September 2024, when the BMet Black Asian Minority Ethnic Staff Network was honoured as the recipients of the prestigious Enfield Black Talent Award - Employee Resource Group 2023.

As I reflect on these snapshots, it's as if a series of pictures could truly paint a thousand words. Within them, my mind is adorned with descriptors like surprised, shocked, elated, and emotional, intertwined with notions of hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, support, sisterhood, and above all, appreciation for the ongoing contributions of dedicated black talent.

Amidst this reflection, there's a moment of pause to acknowledge the immense distance our BMet BAME Staff Network has travelled over the past six years and an opportunity to truly grasp the magnitude of the collective effort our members have invested in the creation of equitable, anti-racist educational and employment environments for all students and staff at BMet, as well as the promotion of equity, diversity, and inclusion across the FE education sector.

Established in 2018 by a group of six staff members (including me!) from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the BMet BAME Staff Network started life as ‘Positive Action Research Group’ – a group of FE staff, who came together to lead a series of cross-campus focus groups, to research and analyse what we could clearly see was the underrepresentation of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic BMet staff at management and leadership levels. Since then, we have embarked on a transformative journey of growth, influence, and most importantly, positive impact.

The work includes contributing to the development of anti-racist curriculum, increasing racial literacy among staff and the development of student-led initiatives like Speak Up, a reporting system for students, a series of videos promoting pastoral support at college, and our D&I and Positive Behaviour policies. There is so much more, but too much to mention in one blog.

All of this work advancement and success of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff at BMet. Some of our most impactful work have been the development programmes we’ve put in place for both staff and students.

In 2019, we developed the BMet BAME Supported Leadership Programme (2019) which saw 10 internal members of BAME staff be assigned coaches and mentors, and be invited to attend a series of bespoke leadership skill-building workshops, which covered topics, including leadership, public speaking, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

For students, we developed the Realise BAME Mentoring Programme in 2021, in consultation with Leaders Unlocked and members of the Student Commission for Racial Justice. This aims to proactively address instances of academic underperformance, low or non-attendance by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students, studying at Levels 1 and 2, and uses coaching and mentoring to successfully help BAME students to achieve and progress onto their next steps at BMet and beyond.

Both programmes have had immense impact: our BAME representation at management level has moved from 11% in 2019 to 20% in 2024, and through Realise, we have supported over 300 hundred students, with more than 30 internal BAME staff coaches and mentors on hand to give support.

Today, we proudly serve as an advisory board to the BMet senior leadership team, steadfastly championing principles of racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racist educational practices within the further education sector.

Has it all been worth the effort? It most definitely has, and not only for the awards and accolades we have received! The BMet BAME Staff Network is dedicated to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion, while building an empowering and supportive community for *black talent to flourish at BMet. Our college recruitment and selection processes have improved, with 44% BAME successful candidates, against 26% whole staff profile in 2023/24.

So, what for some may simply be another carousel of snapshots they scroll past on their social media feed, for me and my fellow BMet BAME Staff Network members, represents so much more. These snapshots are a culmination of resilience, perseverance, and collective achievement. They, like the BMet BAME Staff Network and its members are not just a moment; they are part of a chapter within a narrative of determination and unity, which we hope is inspiring others to embark on their own journeys of empowerment and excellence.

*Black is used as an inclusive term for anyone who to include all people who share a common experience of discrimination because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin

Natalie Simmonds-Alleyne is a Tutorial Development Manager at Birmingham Metropolitan College.