We spoke to Further Education (FE) and skills sector leaders at the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference about one of our new strategic goals – champion inclusion – and what it means to them.
Here’s what we learned:
“One of the things I feel really passionate about is to have lots of voices in a room around decision making. When you have people that agree with each other because they might have a similar background or a similar approach to life you find yourself in a team of people where everyone’s agreeing about everything and that’s a really dangerous position to be in because you’re not seeing the full picture. So you need to make sure, as far as you can, that the people that are making decisions about your students have something in common with your students because they’re the ones that will be experiencing the impact of that.”
“When you’re thinking about inclusion, you’ve got to be conscious. And most of the time as human beings, we walk around being unconscious and that’s why reflection and CPD is so important and making time, because there is no such thing as a perfect human being that is going to create the perfect conditions of inclusion. But we’ve got to learn. We’re a learning sector, we’re a learning organisation and the leader of that organisation needs to be a person of learning and everyone in leadership needs to demonstrate leadership of learning, so that they’re demonstrating to our students what learning is all about and being a good student.”
“Championing inclusion for me is about focusing on outcomes, not on inputs. We should be looking at opportunities to create equity rather than equality of opportunity at the front end. Making sure people are having conversations about the values that we share and how that provides a foundation for what we’re trying to achieve in society means people will not see inclusion as a tick box thing that they have to do, but as something that’s essential to why they’ve come into the FE sector and the things that we can make happen in the world.”
“Inclusion is about to what extent an individual feels that they belong in that organisation. We can be part of an organisation and fit in, but not actually feel that we fully belong. When you feel you belong in an organisation, you give your best, you give those little snippets of your uniqueness that no one else will see.”
“I think inclusivity is really important for our students because we work with a diverse range of different people. The communities we serve are diverse. And leadership governance should reflect the community that it services. Without that diversity, the decision making of a board or a senior leadership team can be negative. And I think we must have people around the table who understand the communities that you’re serving.”
“Leading inclusion is about making sure that at every level in the organisation, you think most broadly about the people that you’re dealing with so that everyone’s welcome and making sure that’s a golden thread throughout every bit of work that we do.”
“I think we’re getting very, very good at understanding that different people need different pathways to success. If you can map that pathway out for somebody, role model it, show them what success looks like, if you’ve got people who’ve been on a different journey, if you can start to show that inclusion is about your educational pathway, your background, all the things that have stopped you or could stop you potentially from being the best person that you possibly can, and that FE is really great at helping you to do that, then I think that that’s what we can do really well as a sector.”
“Any inclusive organisation which has got diversity in it is a more effective, more productive, more profitable organisation. What you’ve got to do on one level is model what you want to see. You’ve got to challenge anything you think which is wrong. Be that any organisation, you have to actually be the person who stands up, and is a bit awkward, and says no. Is it right that we haven’t got any black or non white principals applying for this job or have been shortlisted for this job? Where is the pipeline to actually get those people into the sector?”
To delve deeper into our strategy and further stories from across the FE and skills sector, explore our Together we transform page.