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What does being an EDI co-ordinator mean in practice?

08 April 2024

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is the thread which weaves through further education (FE) institutions; it ensures the use of equitable and inclusive practices across the different teams including curriculum, business services and student services.

I entered the EDI space through my own personal experience as a mixed-race woman, both in education, and in sport where I experienced first-hand limited representation of my culture, background or people with similar life experiences. In sport and education, I became victim to microaggressions and stereotypes about my appearance, attitude and ability. It felt limiting: I felt like I had to work harder and not voice my opinions to fit in with the ‘ideal student’ model. I decided I wanted to work towards dismantling these barriers, not only for myself, but for others in wider society.

As an EDI co-ordinator I work across student engagement, curriculum and the wider business to ensure EDI is part of the organisation’s culture, rather than just a tick-box for compliance.

I work with the student engagement and student services teams, and the student council, union and voice collective, to ensure that the strategies and support in place meet student need, help them to enjoy college life and have a fair chance of achievement. I also identify training needs across the college and then deliver workshops to support the EDI development of staff and source and create resources.

I love that the FE sector is takes a holistic approach to EDI: working on a variety of different areas across different parts of the organisation is so fulfilling, and I enjoy collaborating with students, staff and external providers to create an environment which is equitable and inclusive.

This work isn’t easy and it’s challenging when change isn’t always seen straight away or the scale you are aiming to see. It takes time for processes to adapt and evolve, for people to grow in confidence and for practices to be embedded. Patience is key.

The work I am most proud of is the anti-racism in education work we have been participating in alongside Peterborough Citizens, an arm of Citizens UK. Working for an organisation so involved in confronting the big societal issues has been great. Listening to our students to inform the process and action plans with our anti-racism special interest group has enabled us to target key areas of work to ensure both students and staff have a safe, inclusive and accessible environment to be a part of.

The advice I would give to somebody starting a similar role would be be patient and be kind to yourself. Sometimes the landscape can be overwhelming because it’s so huge: FE institutions have so many moving parts and processes, alongside the breadth and depth of EDI. You want to impact everything all at once, but that is impossible. Instead, start by identifying key allies who can help support and implement your EDI work across your institution. And finally listen to what your student and staff tell you their experience is – and use this as a guide.

Charlotte Akester is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Co-ordinator at the Inspire Education Group.