We work in a sector that is notoriously diverse. Further education and skills is an ecosystem of differences; national and local funders, global and micro employer customers, large and small qualifications in every subject imaginable, and massive college groups and small local training providers serving learner populations that are often more diverse than the communities they come from and who are learning for all sorts of reasons.
Ask people why they work in FE and skills, though and you’re likely to get a unified response – it’s all about the opportunity for the learners we serve.
Education is a values-driven service with a social as well as economic purpose. The best educators know this and thrive in those ‘light bulb’ moments with their learners and get their kicks developing a curriculum and experience that they know sets them up for their next steps.
We also know that a worthwhile curriculum isn’t just about the trade, the craft or the academics. Getting a learner through a study programme, apprenticeship standard or qualification spec is only half the job. We also want our learners to be good people that can understand and thrive in the world around them.
That’s why the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda is so important and why I wanted to shine a spotlight on the important work being done, and that is yet to be done, on making FE an inclusive place to work and learn.
Eyes are, rightly, on the sector’s national organisations to show leadership and on provider leaders to take action.
In this special supplement, you will find honest appraisals and critical reflections from leaders at all levels as well as insights from expert EDI practitioners who are at the cutting edge of culture change in their organisations.
You will find some emerging themes, like the importance of role models and smart use of data. What I hope you don’t find in these pages is complacency.
All of this, I hope, will inspire accountability, more self-reflection and, crucially, even more change.