ETFxBLG: From leadership in diversity to diversity in leadership

The Education and Training Foundation’s new strategic partnership with the Black Leadership Group promises to diversify the sector’s talent pipeline, explains Anju Virdee

The Education and Training Foundation’s new strategic partnership with the Black Leadership Group promises to diversify the sector’s talent pipeline, explains Anju Virdee

14 Oct 2022, 5:00

This year, my family marks its 50-year anniversary of living in this country. Originating from Punjab in northern India, my grandparents came to Britain in 1972 by way of East Africa. Having joined a workforce of economic migrants, they narrowly avoided getting caught up in a civil war when they were granted the right to apply for British Citizenship.

Their voices and experiences, like those of many in my community, shaped my early years. And their stories often reflected on the challenges they faced in settling into the UK, and on the race relations unrest of the 70s and 80s.

Inspired by them, I have pursued a 22-year career in post-14 education in which driving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) forward has always been central. Today, I’m privileged to be leading the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) flagship leadership programmes and promoting a diverse talent pipeline in the further education and training sector.

Bringing about significant change in EDI requires collective action at an individual, team, and organisational level. That is why I am so proud of ETF’s work to place action on EDI at the front and centre across its programmes and activities.

Last year, Our Diversity in Leadership programme helped more than 400 leaders to champion diversity and challenge organisational bias, starting in their own organisations. This year, our latest leadership programme, Inclusive Leadership, will help senior leaders to view EDI as a personal priority, to articulate their commitment to implementing change and to help create an inclusive FE sector. Through our new resource, Deeper Thinking and Stronger Action, we are helping practitioners and leaders to deepen their personal understanding of EDI, and lead their organisation’s work to embed it into everyday practice and thinking.

A clear vision for anti-racism

In May 2021 we supported the Black Leadership Group’s (BLG) inaugural symposium which set out a clear vision of anti-racism across the sector. And last week we were delighted to announce a strengthened strategic partnership with BLG which is an opportunity to push this work to new heights.

Bringing about significant change requires collective action

Through this new partnership, we will strive to build an anti-racist culture across the sector and beyond and highlight the positive contribution of anti-racist efforts across the sector.

Together, we will be working on a range of areas including improving outcomes and representation for learners, staff and leadership (including governance); enhancing workforce succession planning and the talent pipeline of Black staff in the FE sector; influencing policy and practice; and sharing and cascading excellence and innovation in anti-racist practice.

We know we need to do more for our learners. Government figures published this summer show that pupils from a Black Caribbean background are less likely to be in employment, education, or training than the national average; that A-level pupils in Pakistani, Bangladeshi and all black groups are less likely to get top results than their peers from other ethnic groups; and that Asian and black pupils are twice as likely to attend a lower tariff university as white pupils.

A sense of belonging

Further education and training are crucial to closing these gaps and they play a huge role in ensuring that people living and working in our communities achieve their aspirations. That must start with everyone who studies and works in our sector feeling that they belong. That means learners need to see themselves and their communities reflected in the curriculum they follow, and it also means learners and staff alike need to see people like themselves reflected in senior leadership.

My father’s words on the importance of a right to a good education and my family’s pursuit of equity, diversity and inclusion in their own careers continue to drive my work. Such experiences and aspirations drive the work of so many others in our sector too.

Together, let’s ensure all our people and systems reward them for that work by delivering a truly inclusive further education and training sector.

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