Closing an achievement gap

Jaspal Dhaliwal, Head of Inclusion, Maths, English and Digital at Westminster Adult Education Services, participated in the ETF’s Diversity in Leadership programme in 2019. The programme includes a coaching element. He was selected as a ‘game changer’ and invited to develop his own equality, diversity and inclusion focused project. Here, he explains more about his project and reflects on how his participation in the programme has supported it.

An achievement gap had emerged between our African learners and our white British learners. Over three years, that gap widened. In response to this, we set up a working group to identify and execute initiatives to reduce, and then close it.

The project

The first phase of its work saw activities undertaken including raising awareness about support offered at the service, including the Discretionary Learner Support Fund and additional learning support (ALS). Following this, we conducted focus groups to better understand the challenges that were facing these learners. We then reviewed how ALS can be used to best support these learners and tied this into predicted achievement outcomes.

Other items reviewed were the curriculum induction for 2021 and the enrichment programme on offer. Having done a lot of work around attendance (in the first phase) and with the year end in sight, focus switched firmly to achievement, and with this in mind attention was directed to phase two: mentoring.

The executive board was very supportive of the plan and it became a regular agenda item for our EDI committee and the curriculum group management meeting.

The impact and next steps

As a result of the coaching I underwent, I have taken on several new key responsibilities, including additional curriculum areas and cross-service responsibilities. And there has been a tangible impact on my organisation; succession planning has improved as I have been able to apply my experience to those I manage, helping them to develop their skills sets. I have also led on a restructure, improving performance and efficiency.

The coaching has made a significant impact on my outlook on employment and I no longer see my role as being limited to the subject specialisms I am accustomed to. In addition, I have now developed my skill set to non-FE specific activity, and this has broadened my knowledge.

The project allowed me to reflect and identify some of the key challenges that are present within the organisation. And following the Black FE Leadership Group conference in May, I have worked with our executive board and secured a slot at the next extended senior management team meeting to start working on race equality.

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