We have worked with over 120 Colleges over an eleven and half year period.
In 2016, Huddersfield New College achieved the best ever FREDIE (Fairness, Respect, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement) diagnostic results for a College.
So, when I went to see them there were several burning questions in my mind. What was it that made them so good? How had they improved so dramatically over a 12-month period. What was the role of the leaders and how did they do it?
I wondered what the college would be like. What would it sound like? What would I see? How would the learners and staff behave and how would it feel to be walking into the ‘UK’s Number 1 College’?
All these questions were going through my mind as I dropped my kids off at school and then took the 30-minute drive out to the College campus.
When I got there, I was struck by how beautiful it was, how clean it was and how well organised everything was. I walked into reception and straightaway I saw the ‘Leaders in Diversity’ plaque, proudly displayed in the reception office. I spotted it and excitedly, I said “Oh wow I can see your Leaders in Diversity plaque”. The person at reception, equally as excitedly, beamed and said “Yes we have. Look!” and she very proudly showed me her Diversity Champion badge. What a start! I was just another visitor. I wasn’t there to do an assessment or anything like that. That’s just the way this person was.
How many times have we been in reception areas and have been treated like we are not there or as a nuisance?
I’d not been in the building two minutes and I was already impressed. The people that work in reception areas are just so important – they make the first impression to outsiders. As we all know – first impressions last.
I was then met by the ‘UK FE Sector Employee of the Year 2016’ , the humble and highly capable; Zoe Shackleton who took me into to see Principal, Angela Williams, who I hadn’t really spoken to in any detail before.
I did wonder how she would be. I was in a little bit in of awe of her because I know what a great achievement it was to end up as the UK’s Number 1 College. Would she be warm and friendly or stand offish and aloof?
Like many others, I had been gripped by her speech at last year’s Grand Awards Ceremony. I had heard her riveting speech describing her life, her career and what FREDIE meant to her.
Within seconds I knew I was talking to a humble, warm, friendly, intelligent, down to earth, first class leader. That went for all the people I spoke to. They were all passionate about FREDIE, knowledgeable and open to learning. They were knowledgeable but were not know-it-all’s.
They gave me the impression that they had a sponge-like thirst for knowledge. They were not going to rest on their massive achievements and there was going to be no let-up. They were so complimentary about their ‘Leaders in Diversity’ Advisor, Jo Barton and about their first Advisor Bruce Waller.
As the CEO of the National Centre for Diversity this gave me a great sense of pride, and a warm glow which has lasted all week!
Zoe showed me many displays of their commitment to FREDIE – including an accessible picnic table designed for wheel chair users. As she showed me around the building, Zoe introduced me to several people and many of them were proudly showing off their Diversity Champion badges.
The atmosphere throughout my visit was warm, inclusive, friendly and professional. If I lived in the locality I would want my kids to go Huddersfield New College because I know that they would be treated, respectfully, fairly and would have a chance to excel.
If you would like to know just how they became so good at FREDIE, Zoe Shackleton is doing a session where she will be giving away their secrets of success at the NCFD 2017 Conference.
To find out more and book your seats, go to: www.nationalcentrefordiversity.com/2017-conference