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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 at 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.

Proud to be campaign at Shrewsbury Colleges Group

Dan Blasczyk - Student Engagement Coach

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 ‘’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’’.