Membership of AoC’s new steering group to increase the diversity of leadership and governance revealed

The members of the Association of Colleges’ new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) steering group have today been revealed.

The group (full list below) will be chaired by NCG group deputy principal Palvinder Singh and is currently developing an “action plan” to tackle discrimination across the further education sector.

FE Week revealed the association had created the committee last year after our analysis found that less than seven per cent of principals were non-white, and after the AoC’s BAME Principals’ Group was disbanded in 2017.

Yesterday the association again refused to name the members of its new EDI group to FE Week on the grounds it would not be in accordance with their “general policy”, but this afternoon they were listed in a weekly email from AoC deputy chief executive, Kirsti Lord.

In the email, seen by FE Week, Lord said the group has a remit “of working to increase the diversity of leadership and governance in the sector, through influencing the Department for Education on policy, the Education and Training Foundation on development, and sharing practice in the sector”.

“The commitment around influencing policy to ensure that college is a welcoming space for all, and the potential for FE to be seen as an attractive career prospect for more diverse communities, are at the heart of the group’s work, in addition to sharing practice and facilitating thought leadership on EDI,” she added.

Lord told FE Week earlier this week that AoC has proposed extending membership of the EDI group to “all relevant membership organisations to ensure insights and actions are reflected”.

It will now be meeting “more frequently to drive these actions and engage with sector members and stakeholders”.

The email continued: “The EDI steering group will be sending an action plan to the AoC board in October for sign off. The commitment around influencing policy and the shape of ITE to ensure that college is a welcoming space for all, and the potential for FE to be seen as an attractive career prospect for more diverse communities are at the heart of the work, in addition to sharing practice and facilitating thought leadership on EDI. Once signed off, the action plan will be published on our website, and be regularly RAG rated for progress.”

Palvinder Singh is also supporting another new organisation, the Black Further Education Leadership Group (BFELG), which is being convened by a number of existing and former college leaders including: former Highbury College principal Stella Mbubaegbu; former Cornwall College principal Amarjit Basi and former chief executive of the Network for Black Professionals Robin Landman, who for the last six years has been a recruitment associate specialising in further education and training and equality and diversity.

With assistance from college principal’s such as Dawn Ward from Burton and South Derbyshire College, the BFELG gathered signatures from sector leaders for an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, saying: “At a time of elevated advocacy for FE, failure to recognise the insidious nature of racism undermines the sector’s ability to fully engage with all its constituent communities.”

Their letter includes a number of recommendations, including a “radical revision” of FE curricula and qualifications to include teachings on colonial history and its influence on society; and for professional development programmes to include a consideration of racial equality.

Earlier this week Stella Mbubaegbu sent a letter on behalf of the BFELG to “all BAME chairs/governors to consider becoming a member of the BFEG and/or signatory of the Open Letter. A group of chair/governor members has been formed within BFELG to better engage with and harness the expertise of this constituent group.”

The letter also said: “Significant, in their silence and disappointingly, we have not heard from the government, although we have been assured very recently that a response will be with us sooner rather than later.”

The Department for Education was approached by FE Week for comment on Tuesday but they failed to respond.

The full membership of the AoC’s EDI steering group is:

  • Palvinder Singh, Group Deputy Principal, Newcastle College Group (chair)
  • Anthony Bravo, Principal, Basingstoke College of Technology
  • Everton Burke, Chair, Burton and South Derbyshire College
  • Solat Chaudhry, Founder and Chief Executive, National Centre for Diversity
  • Arinola Edeh, Principal and Head of Service, ‎Westminster Adult Education Service (on behalf of Holex)
  • Angela Foulkes, Principal, The Sheffield College
  • Jo Lawrence, Vice Principal, Joseph Chamberlain College
  • Mel Lenehan, Principal, Fircroft College
  • Rajinder Mann, Vice Chair of Burton and South Derbyshire College and EDI consultant
  • Rachel Nicholls, Acting Principal, Peterborough College
  • Seb Schmoller, Chair, The Sheffield College

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