Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action: A Personal and Organisational Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion – a Toolkit for Leaders   

Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action toolkit contents:

Setting the scene

‘Deeper thinking and stronger action: A personal and organisational commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’ cover

Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action (DTSA) is an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) toolkit that supports leaders in the Further Education (FE) and Skills sector to make personal and organisational commitments to EDI. Here, we use the term Equity, rather than Equality, to mean distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients as opposed to giving everyone the exact same resources. 

To make the best use of this toolkit, we recommend that you work through the guide to Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action. While the videos below focus on key EDI points of reflection and the ‘leadership considerations’ are a good starting point for planning, the guide delves deeper into three EDI areas: 

  • knowledge and understanding
  • deeper thinking (and how to do this)
  • stronger action.

As you read the guide, watch the videos and engage with the content, you might like to note down ideas in an action plan.

Watch this introductory video, where Claire Cullinan and Kathryn James (co-authors of DTSA) explain why this toolkit was created and how it can be used to support the leadership of EDI in FE and Skills.

Voices from the sector

Listen to leaders from four FE and Skills organisations explain their EDI context, what they plan to do and how DTSA has helped/will help them on their EDI journeys.

Enabling everyone to be responsible for EDI
Sarah Cattell (Workforce Development and Innovation Manager), Jat Sharma CBE DL (Principal and Chief Executive) and Natalie Priest (Head of HR) at Walsall College describe their EDI movement, which is rooted in deep understanding and support for students and staff. We hear how Walsall College stands as a beacon in the community for inclusion through distributed EDI leadership.
Recognising and celebrating diversity
Adam Carney (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager) from Hopwood Hall College & University Centre in Greater Manchester describes how, as EDI lead, he opens his door to all and takes thoughtful EDI action across the curriculum. Adam points to the pivotal role of the senior leadership team who use Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action to support their college’s ongoing EDI journey.
Promoting an inclusive college
Wendy McKaig (Vice Principal) and Dragana Ramsden (Head of Quality and Tutor Development) at City Lit explain how they have used the EDI values outlined in Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action to promote an inclusive college for all staff and students.
Leading an EDI journey
Alison Andreas (CEO and Principal) describes how Colchester Institute is at the start of their EDI journey to becoming an inclusive college. We hear how she is leading the work and has instigated setting up an EDI Steering Group and five special interest groups: anti-racism, disability, refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTQ and recruitment and selection.

Consider some key topics that relate to EDI and the ways in which DTSA can support your EDI leadership. Topics include:

  • Who should lead EDI development work and how?
  • How do we get started?
  • How do we do things the ‘right’ way?

In the EDI spotlight videos, leaders and staff from City Lit, Colchester Institute, Hopwood Hall College and Walsall College share their experiences of thinking deeply about EDI, planning and taking strong action. They focus on the following strategic topics: Getting started, Leading EDI, Doing things the right way, Creating inclusive spaces and Making sustainable change. Other videos focus on the following aspects of EDI: Allyship, Intersectionality and Unconscious bias.

EDI leadership considerations

The Deeper Thinking, Stronger Action guide contains many helpful ideas and suggestions for your EDI development work. We have tried not to replicate them below, as they are explained in detail in the guide, with links to wider reading if you would like to delve into any topics more deeply.

Click on the dropdown boxes below to view tips that have arisen from working with sector leaders who are using DTSA to support their work.

1. EDI leadership

Who should lead Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?

  • This might be a named role or it could be the Principal or another senior leader. 
  • Perhaps it is everyone’s responsibility. If so, how can you enable/ empower people?

How will you know if you have made progress?

  • What will you do if nothing gets done? How can you mitigate against this?
  • Could you design something that helps you track and record your progress?

What systems can you use to lead EDI?

  • Could you set up a steering group?
  • Will you have special interest committees?
  • How will such groups report on and share progress and achievements?

2. Getting started

Understand your context

  • Draw on community data and student/staff voice to identify levers for change.
  • Is there someone/a group already operating in your organisation with passion and drive for EDI – how can you work with or through them?

Find your allies

  • Be mindful of avoiding affinity bias (see DTSA, p.21), how can you find allies for your work, both from within and outside your organisation?

Try not to get overwhelmed

  • You have to start somewhere. Remember the proverb about eating an elephant one bite at a time.
  • How can you build on previous successes?

Be brave

  • Follow the energy and allow social situations to carry you along (mindfully).
  • Intent to do good does matter! Don’t let fear of making mistakes put you off.

Plan your ways of working

  • Make system changes if needed.
  • Be clear about ‘standards’ that people need to commit to when leading this work.
  • Remember, your methodology has to be inclusive too.

3. Making sustainable change

Recognise the wider FE and Skills context

  • EDI development sits within an FE and Skills context of limited resources and time.
  • You have access to people with many lived experiences within and outside EDI working groups. Respect this but acknowledge limits on people’s time and energy.

Practise inclusive leadership

  • Enable and empower people to lead and be involved.
  • Be prepared to sit with the uncomfortable, be challenged, tackle the ‘blockages’.

Be realistic

  • Ground your approaches in people’s working lives and practices so they do not get ‘burnt out’.
  • It’s hard sometimes to keep high energy initiatives going. What matters is that people become more included and can flourish in your organisation.

Celebrate and communicate

  • Celebrate big and small wins and communicate them widely, clearly and inclusively.
  • Acknowledge good work that has taken place and give credit where it is due.

Remember, this is an ongoing process.

  • EDI development work does not end.
  • You are looking to create ‘systemic inclusion’ and that requires ongoing work.

4. Doing things the ‘right’ way

Use inclusive approaches

  • Recognise current and past work and the people trying to do things for the right reasons (even if what they are doing seems not to be working).
  • Don’t assume that someone can’t contribute/benefit – everyone should be able to get involved.
  • Don’t do things ‘to’ people and respect people’s different perspectives and positionality.

Reflect on self

  • Consider your own biases/privileges (DTSA p.21-27) – if you can’t hear/see people’s viewpoints because of your own biases, you will get it wrong and exclude people.
  • Be prepared to work on yourself.
  • Don’t centre things on yourself – practise allyship where required and sit with things being uncomfortable.

Don’t think you will always get it right

  • If and when you make mistakes, consider how you will deal with them.

Build bridges

  • Be prepared to build bridges when people have become disillusioned/disengaged.
  •  Invite people in and be prepared to listen and accept criticism/people’s differing realities.
  • Don’t expect others to do the work.

5. Creating safe spaces

Consider your ways of working

  • Create working spaces with inclusive intentions such as respect for all voices and regular attendance.
  • While people can (and often do) become passionate due to lived experience, don’t assume what that is and regularly check that everyone is okay.

Plan EDI infrastructure

  • Create safe spaces for people to ask if they don’t know.
  • Remember, your committees/special interest groups need to be safe too. Some organisations call them ‘conversation groups’ to highlight the learning aspect of their function.

Remember, this is about collective learning

  • Keep learning at the heart of your plans. See EDI development in terms of ‘strategy as learning
  • Practise humility and kindness, mindful that we are learning collectively.
  • Recognise your journey and honour those whose shoulders you stand on.

Value multiple ways of learning

  • Be open about how you arrived at new understandings.
  • Value life narratives as learning tools.

Further resources

We have complied a list of EDI resources to help you as you embark on your journey to becoming an EDI leader. Please note that these resources are intended as a starting point for your EDI learning. As you progress in your role as an EDI leader, we encourage you to search for additional resources that match your interests, address any gaps in your knowledge, and remain open to diverse perspectives.

Please note that links will open in new tabs.

Government, statutory and public bodies

Homepage | EHRC

The independent statutory body with responsibility to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and promote the human rights of everyone in Britain. Provides guidance, reports and research on a range of equality and diversity issues.

The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – GOV.UK

An independent report into the racial and ethnic disparities in the UK. Includes a section on education and training,  and employment, fairness at work and enterprise. Published in 2021.

UK Disability Survey research report, June 2021

Insights gained from the UK Disability Survey into the lived experience of people with disabilities, including perceptions and discrimination, housing, employment, education, shopping, leisure and public services.

Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change

This sets out a vision and actions to tackle gendered inequalities women and men face across their lives. Published in 2019.

Further Education support organisations

Learning and Work Institute

An independent policy, research and development organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion. Useful information on achievement and employment gaps. Resources on young adult carers and care leavers.


Membership association for organisations that offer specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Black Leadership Group

The Black Leadership Group was set up in July 2020 to challenge systemic racism for the benefit of all and to be the authoritative voice of anti-racism in the F/HE, schools, public, voluntary and private sectors.

Women’s Leadership Network

The Women’s Leadership Network aims to promote intersectional gender equality in the FE, skills and lifelong learning.

Courses and development

Advancing Equality in Further Education

A free online ETF course for anybody who works in FE and aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the role of EDI in further education.

Inclusive Leadership

A course organised by ETF to support FE managers and leaders embrace equity, diversity and inclusion as a personal priority and to equip delegates with the necessary skills to implement impactful change in their organisations.

Leading from the middle

A programme organised by ETF for middle leaders in the FE and Skills sector. It includes a module ‘Leading Inclusively’ which helps participants explore what they need to think about and do to embed EDI in their management practice.

Leadership and management of SEND provision

Part of a series of ETF webpages with resources, learning and other CPD in relation to SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities), such as working in the sector, teaching and learning, learning differences and wellbeing, leadership and management, employers and employability.

Inclusive FE

Part of a series of ETF webpages with CPD, courses and other resources focused on EDI.

Board leadership and organisational development

Online support organised by ETF to provide governors with knowledge and skills to enable effective and inclusive leadership.

Other support organisations

LGBTQ+ facts and figures | Stonewall

An organisation that stands up for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people. Provides courses and resources for schools and colleges and inclusive workplaces.

The Fawcett Society

The UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for intersectional gender equality and women’s rights at work, in the home and in public life. The website provides reports and research into the experience of women.

Beyond Equality

An organisation set up to engage men in brave and transformative rethinking of what ‘being a man’ means, and to develop identities and behaviours that are healthier for themselves and others.

We need to change the way we think about ageing | Age without limits

Ageism is a prejudice hidden in plain sight. This campaign is about challenging ageism to make work, media and society more inclusive.

Leadership approaches

Creating spaces to think in further education and training

Aimed at Advanced Practitioners, but valuable for anybody leading on EDI in their organisation, it provides strategies and ideas for using thinking environment tools with colleagues to support deeper thinking and self-awareness.

The Key to Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership is emerging as a unique and critical capability helping organisations adapt to diverse customers, markets, ideas and talent. Aimed at business but equally relevant to FE and skills.

Thinking Environment – Time to Think

These tools are a powerful way to create inclusive spaces for independent thinking, diversity of voices, equality of space to think and be heard and appreciation for what we all bring to the conversation.

Good practice examples in the sector

Stream Sticks And Stones by Inside Education

This podcast by Natalie Betts and residents at HMP Portland explores the impact of labelling in prison education.

Embedding EDI and black history into the curriculum

In this article, Ellisha Soanes, award-winning EDI specialist, outlines her top tips on how educators can embed black history and EDI into their ethos and curriculum all year round. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Podcast: Why menopause matters in FE

A podcast with numerous presenters exploring why menopause matters in FE, why this is a collective responsibility and why it matters to individuals and to organisations.

Creating a sustainable diversity and inclusion culture

Hilda Koon, Manchester College, explains her three strands to creating a sustainable culture of EDI, including a curriculum review, developing common language and vocabulary and coaching development.

Empowering Teaching And Learning Communities To Promote Equality And Celebrate Diversity

Leaders at Darlington Borough Council and Bishop Auckland College collaborated to enable staff to work in communities of practice to build confidence in promoting equality, celebrating diversity, going beyond tokenistic attention to EDI and to take greater responsibility for making EDI central to practitioners teaching.

Long reads

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Published in 2017, this ground-breaking book explores structural racism, white privilege and why the author can no longer talk to white people about race.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Published in 2014, ‘Everyday Sexism’ is an analysis of modern day misogyny and sexism.

More EDI books

There are so many aspects to EDI, it’s hard to recommend what you might want to read about. Check out the top reads on Good Reads for ‘diversity and inclusion’ for more recommendations.

Social media

Social media can be a really good way to access short 1-2 minute reads of information on EDI. These are examples of accounts on Instagram:

  • Ableism and Me
  • Ableism is Trash
  • Age Without Limits
  • Ageism
  • Blmuk
  • Everyone’s Invited
  • Let’s Talk Racism
  • LGBTQ+
  • Pride
  • Queer Recollections
  • The Black Curriculum
  • The Solidarity Sisters
  • The Women’s Organisation
  • Transactualuk
  • UK Black History