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Equality, diversity and inclusion case studies

Conflict in the Middle East: creating a safe space for learners during this time

Luke Read, Learning Area Manager Personal and Social Development, South Gloucestershire and Stroud (SGS) College

The role of further education (FE) is to prepare students, not only for industry and employment, but the wider world. The tragic events we've witnessed from afar since 7 October have had reverberations in all communities, including FE. At South Gloucester and Stroud College, we have taken a learner-centric approach to foster a safe environment for the exploration and expression of feelings on the Israel and Palestine conflict.

In the first instance, we provided a college statement that empathises with all who are affected whilst emphasising that SGS College firmly stands against antisemitism, islamophobia and discrimination of any kind. This was important for us as an organisation to ensure that the protection of people was at the forefront of our response.

When staff told us that they didn't feel equipped to talk or teach on the subject, we took the time to develop a tutorial resource made up of a glossary of terms, historical context, and tools to speak about the conflict outside of a tutorial setting. The resource also reaffirms everyone's rights and responsibilities, and directly links to British values and the Prevent duty. This resource was recorded and embedded into the tutorials via Microsoft Stream.

We also worked with our wellbeing and safeguarding team to establish expression groups for learners. The intent here was to provide a safe space for learners to attend, share their thoughts and feelings, all led by our education and wellbeing mentors who did a fantastic job of facilitating. This is a safe and controlled environment where learners registered to attend by confirming their intention to uphold the College Learner Charter.

Amidst so many distressing news reports and discourse around the events seen in Israel and Palestine, we felt strongly that we should celebrate our diverse learner and staff population. Our student governor ran a multicultural fashion show in our lecture theatre for learners of all nationalities and foods from different cultures were also provided. This was a fantastic event that championed our diversity at the college.

As a college, we have also done a lot of work communicating our freedom of expression policy to learners and staff, specifically highlighting our commitment to upholding the freedom of speech whilst protecting the rights of others in-line with the law. This has given learners and staff reassurance that SGS College is a safe place to study, be curious and learn.

#ProudToBe campaign

Dan Blasczyk, Student Engagement Coach, Shrewsbury College

Shrewsbury Colleges group launched an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion campaign called #proudtobe where they will be highlighting all the characteristics of equality and diversity through activities and events throughout the year. The campaign was orchestrated after discussions between staff and students in an equality, diversity and inclusion working group.

Dan Blasczyk is the college’s student engagement coach; he has been working closely with students on the project.

‘’I recently joined Shrewsbury Colleges Group in a student engagement role and one of my main aims was to highlight and celebrate the diverse college community here. The key for me was to speak to students and get an idea of what students were passionate about and how we can highlight our diversity in the college’’.

‘’After speaking to students, the initial idea put forward was to encourage students to bring in a flag of their choice which could be Country of birth, ancestry or religion and we could then get a big group photo of students to show how diverse we are. Several Students then asked if they could hold a flag which represented their special educational needs, disability, gender and sexuality.’’

‘’On the initial launch of the campaign I got the opportunity to interview students and ask them about their flag. Some of our students held their flag of birth and talked about how proud they were of their culture and heritage whilst some of our students wanted to celebrate that they had a special educational need and it has not held them back. For example, one of our performing arts students held a flag which represented ADHD. In her interview she explained that she has so much energy and is loud but this is a gift for her as she aims to become an actress and perform at the west end’’.

Students and staff are now planning the next big cross college event which will be Diversity Week in February highlighting and celebrating religion, race and culture. Dan Blasczyk said: ‘’Students will he encouraged to wear traditional clothing, bring in traditional food for other students to try and we will also educate students on our different beliefs’’.

The value of community learning

Dominique Rose, Curriculum Leader Community Regeneration and MGL, Bolton College

At Bolton College we pride ourselves upon our highly diverse and inclusive culture. We are responsive in supporting and serving the wide and differing needs of our community as well as fostering a progressive work and learning environment informed by local and national priorities.

To enable access to education for all we deliver courses in the community and take education to the people! To break down the barriers to education we use a place based spokes approach. We deliver in churches, libraries, community centres, UCAN centres, Bolton Hospice and local primary schools. The learners see the college as a part of their community and don’t have to leave their safe space to re-engage in education.

We are fully committed to bridging the achievement gap and ensuring equity and access to equal opportunities for all learners within our college. The achievement rate for our widening participation learners was above the national average for widening participation. Last year all learners from ethically diverse backgrounds achieved above the national average. Our attendance rates in Community Regeneration are also consistently above 90%. This shows that our inclusive and contextualised curriculum is making a positive impact within our local communities.

We offer a range of community learning courses to meet the needs of our local communities and enhance community cohesion. We offer cultural cookery courses which include Moroccan, Indian, Lebanese, Mexican and Greek Cuisine cookery courses. During the Cost of Living Crisis, we’re offering Healthy & Tasty Meals on a Budget to support those struggling to make ends meet in the current socio- economic climate. We deliver Family Learning courses in local primary schools to help parents support their child’s wellbeing, English, Maths and digital skills.

Our most popular contextualized curriculum is British Culture. The course is designed to help new arrivals integrate into British society, enables learners to access local services and prepares them for future progression such as Community Interpreting and volunteering courses. The Community Interpreting courses offer an established progression route for ESOL and British Culture learners. Community Interpreting qualifications empower our learners to use their native languages as a career pathway and help others in the local community.

This curriculum has not been designed by ourselves, but co-designed with those in the community and key stake holders, listening to them and using their learner voice to provide a provision which is based around their needs and the needs of our stakeholders who have intelligence about their skills needs and the needs of hyper-localities.

We are incredibly proud of our inclusive approach which enables our communities to engage in education, gaining valuable skills to live a happier and more prosperous life.

Becoming an anti-racist college

Pat Carvalho, Principal and CEO, Birmingham Metropolitan College

At BMet, we have been working with the Student Commission for Racial Justice (SCRJ) for more than four years to ensure student voice is heard on anti-racism.

The SCRJ have played a pivotal role talking with students and then making recommendations for education, health, policing and employment which institutions have taken forward to allow them to progress. BMet has embedded the methodology of students leading the discussion, review, and recommendations within our own annual cycle where senior leads oversee actions and progress shared with students.

We also use an annual survey about students’ experience within BMet. The nuanced questions attempt to glean the impact of the implementation of strategies on students; for example, do they feel there is a difference in approaches towards diverse groups of students?

All the questions are designed to take the temperature on four themes: teaching and learning, support, safety and wellbeing, events, social life and college culture, and the world of work and aspiration. The SCRJ collate the survey results, and the anonymized ‘benchmarking’ and raw data are shared with each institution so that we can analyse it further across areas and campuses. The results are also shared with students by our student commissioners who formulate responses alongside staff to enable us to seek further insight and act. Actions form part of our central action planner monitored by the senior leadership team and reported to our student council. Governors are kept informed via both these reporting mechanisms.

We have significant student engagement in the survey with over 1,000 students completing it annually. The interesting thing here is that the proportion of BAME students that took part in the survey almost reflects the actual proportion being 61% in the first year, and 69% in the second.

We have student recommendations that further confirm areas of work for the college such as increasing the number of culture days, including students in the recruitment process and professional development of staff so that they can confidently talk about issues of race as well as recommendations to improve the communication and implementation of our whistle blowing policy (which students redesigned and called ‘Speak Up’).

Our aim at BMet is to ensure this work with students is just part of what we do benefiting all our students and not perceived as an add-on favouring particular student or staff groups.

Disability Confident Accredited

Harley Longley, People Business Partner, Sheffield College

At Sheffield College, we were awarded the Disability Confident Leader Level 3 accreditation in 2023. We want to continue to foster an inclusive workplace that values diversity and supports employees with disabilities. We are very proud to have such a diverse student body and want this to be reflected within our workforce, so it is as equitable, inclusive and diverse as possible.

To achieve the accreditation, we completed a comprehensive review to identify areas for improvement. Our initial aim was to provide awareness and develop the tools and resources for staff to learn more about disabilities and health conditions, and the ways that these can be supported within the workplace.

Our challenge was knowing where to begin, as there are so many ways to develop a disability-confident culture. It started primarily as a people-led process but lots of colleagues were keen to get involved and therefore, it evolved into a cross-college initiative.

We wanted to ensure that our recruitment process was accessible for all candidates and ensure our hiring managers were confidently embedding our values into our recruitment processes. We implemented an inclusive recruitment strategy including blind shortlisting, a guaranteed interview scheme, providing guidance for disabled candidates and training our hiring managers on disability confidence.

We identified that the most important people to engage with to provide support for disabilities was staff with disabilities. A Disability Working Group was established to gain feedback on what we are doing well and what can be improved. This has allowed us to provide initiatives such as accessibility walks, better signage, improved learning and development provision, and the development of the Equality Impact Assessment process.

Staff also identified that it was important for their colleagues to identify where they can access support whether they have a disability or not, and as a result, we provided Disability Equality Awareness training for everyone, and have integrated it into the college induction. We also introduced Disability Confidence training for line managers to provide them with the tools to support their staff.

Through our annual disability confidence surveys, our results show that staff with disabilities and health conditions feel very supported. We are also seeing an increase in declared disabilities and health conditions, which is allowing us to continually develop and improve the support we offer to staff. We are on a journey from good to great and will continue to work towards improving our practice every day.

How Amnesty International Youth Groups can promote EDI in FE

Shamila Hussain, English Teacher & Race Equality Forum Co Chair, Leeds City College

My teaching has been shaped by the key principles of human rights, equality, diversity and inclusion over the years, and I’ve found innovative ways to instil common values and human rights into my lessons. The GCSE and vocational curriculums do offer plenty of opportunities to embed freedom of expression, security, tolerance and safety, however I think in further education (FE) settings we need to look beyond the curriculum.

Setting up extracurricular activities and groups can really support young people tap into their creativity and activism. By providing them with the ability to use their voice to create change, we can empower them to think about how they can positively shape the future.

At Leeds City College, we’ve set up Human Rights Groups such as Amnesty International Youth Club and Youth For Human Rights International, which have been really successful, particularly with the 14 to 16-year-olds who study with us through our 14+ academies.

The academies are full-time alternative environments, providing a transformational educational setting away from mainstream school for people from diverse backgrounds with a range of academic and developmental abilities. Staff and learners foster equality and diversity through creating a culture of inclusivity, respect and tolerance.

Last year, through the Amnesty Youth Club, students from the academies worked on a project to create awareness of different disabilities and how that can impact people in a variety of ways. They campaigned and held meetings with senior staff, sharing personal stories and suggestions on how the academies can continue to create an active curriculum promoting equality and inclusivity towards people with disabilities.

The campaign helped the college senior leadership team appreciate the importance of topics that are important to young people today. The success of the campaign and meetings can be directly seen in the PSHE curriculum delivered to both Year 10 and Year 11 learners, giving them an insight into the experiences of others.

One learner said: “The Amnesty International Youth Club allowed me to share my story and create direct change. It empowered me and gave me a voice.”