Fire fighting in FE- the flames are getting out of control

The Further Education sector has been hit hard by austerity. The sector is still shuddering from the after shocks of funding cuts. We work with over 100 colleges and have seen that some colleges have had to restructure four times since 2010.

When the National Centre for Diversity was created in 2005, there were over 400 Colleges. Now there are 335. All the talk is of that number being set to reduce down even further. Merger is going to be an over used word in the coming months. It will be a word that College staff will wish was consigned to the world of Commerce and industry.

The Sector seems powerless to do anything about it. Its debatable if the School based Unions would have sat back and taken it as quietly as FE seems to have taken it.

Ofsted, Fundamental British Values and Preventing radicalisation

At the same time Colleges have to quickly make sense of the serious implications of the latest Ofsted Common Inspection Framework of September 2015.

Also In July 2015 we saw the introduction of a new duty on Colleges to “Prevent persons from becoming involved in terrorism”. The duty was enshrined within the scarily named ‘Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015’. What is even scarier is the fact that Teachers failing to do their duty could receive up to 5 years in prison.

We have new concepts that Colleges have to embrace, unpick, understand and cascade through the College community into approaches to teaching and actually into teaching practice. The new concepts include ‘Fundamental British values’ (FBV), preventing radicalisation, extremism. More about this later on.

Mergers and restructuring.

In the last 5 years many Colleges have at 3 or more rounds of redundancies. Some have had to two rounds of redundancy in a 12-month period! There are Colleges out there that have struggled and indeed are struggling under the strain. If you are under real strain be comforted by the fact that you are not alone. There are many in your position.

Many of the poor HR staff charged with the responsibility are tired and exhausted. They are trying hard to keep things together but in too many cases they are lacking the support they need from Senior leaders who, themselves are under huge strain from conflicting priorities, new legal duties and ever changing , it seems, regulatory demands.

In too many cases those that find themselves at the centre of implementing the restructure programme find themselves in the firing line with people making complaints about them ranging from unfairness to hard-edged allegations of ‘isms’ such as racism.

These complaints put an extra burden on staff – being accused of racism in a college is surely one of our worst nightmares. These extra burdens have led to HR staff, themselves becoming stressed and anxious and going off sick . They join the well publicised statistic of being one in four people who will suffer a mental illness over a 12 month period.

We have even heard of Union reps going off sick with stress when representing Staff. Complainants themselves often go off sick. Sometimes they collaborate with others who are in the same position as themselves.

People are then brought in as substitutes to fill in for long term absent staff. The substitutes often a lack of training, knowledge of the College’s own policies and procedures. They often have a lack of understanding of their own unconscious biases.

The comings and going have led to delays, that without the afore enumerated explanation, would seem ridiculous and unacceptable. We have heard of grievance and disciplinary hearings dragging on over a 12-month period. At the same time the redundancy process couldn’t be completed until the grievance procedure was completed.

The problems will not end at the conclusion of restructuring programmes. When Colleges do merge there is the burning, but often ignored issue of creating a whole new single culture from two. In recent years we saw too many colleges had underestimated culture. The great Peter Drucker is attributed to have said ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch” and yet some College CEO’s went headlong into strategy. They didn’t fully grasp that it was the people that will deliver the strategy.

Yes sure they might ticked off the vision, mission and values thing but did they truly grasp the importance of culture? Did they give themselves enough time to reflect, plan and build the kind of culture that would influence, attitudes , beliefs, regulate peoples behaviours and support the delivery of the mission and strategy of the College.

Did they underestimate how cultures enable conflict and lead to fire fighting. If you don’t shape and build a culture then the stronger characters in your College will do it themselves but the question is will what they build be what you want?

Disconnect between HR and EDI Staff

The other worrying aspect is that we have seen that there is a disconnect between the EDI staff and the frontline HR staff. It seems like that EDI staff are seen as only there for the nice, soft and furry part of college life and they should be spared the darker, more gritty and risky issues.

Far too many colleges have not done an equality impact assessment which leaves them wide open for action to be taken.

The other worrying thing is that a very small number have taken their foot of the EDI pedal and off the Investors in Diversity pedal. It feels like they think we will think badly of them because they are having to make redundancies.

It’s as if they view the Investors in Diversity approach as just recognition for good work. It is that but it is much more than that. That is a big misunderstanding because we are here through the good and tough times. The tough times are when you should scale up your EDI work.

Investors in Diversity is a management tool as well a culture change process rolled into one. It is not just about the ‘feel good’ things. The Investors in Diversity approach has a hard edge and this hard edge should be used to ensure that you are in the best position possible to make hard decisions in the most effective way possible and that you are able to mitigate any damage at times like this. Your Advisor is there to guide and support you. This is the time when you can lean on them for help. They wont judge you, they will understand your position and support you. They have the expertise and knowledge and they are there for you.

Our diagnostic is equality impact assessment mapped against all 9 protected characteristics
tool but also a wonderful mood monitor which helps you keep your finger on the pulse. Timed properly, It provides you with a early warning system to alert you to any problems that are building up. If you don’t now what’s going on, you can do anything about it and the problems will all get bigger , the longer they are ignored.

Fundamental British Values and prevent

2015 saw the introduction of the latest Ofsted framework and a new College Duty to prevent persons becoming involved in terrorism.

Investors in Diversity & Leaders in Diversity

The Investors in Diversity Award is recognised as much more than just a highly prized and prestigious national equality standard. It provides an all-encompassing methodology for improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) practices in the workplace. Those that achieve the Investors in Diversity Award have been enabled to take a structured and planned approach to embedding EDI at the heart of what they do. It also provides an excellent framework to bring together all of an organisation’s work around EDI.

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Face-to-Face Training

Should you need additional Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training within your organisation, our team of expert trainers are on hand to create bespoke programmes for you. Once you have outlined your EDI needs to us, one of our trainers will be in touch to further establish the content of the information required and then deliver a tailor-made training session to your staff at your office base.

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Learning Walks

The introduction of the latest Ofsted inspection framework has led to significant changes with respect to SMSC, British Values, preventing radicalisation, Equality Diversity and Inclusion.

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The NCFD Further Education Ofsted Inspection Diagnostic

From 1st July 2015, your organisation has a legal duty to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

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Bid writing

Today, Equality, diversity and inclusion is a very important part of almost all bids and tenders for public sector funding. Getting it wrong could jeopardise your chances of winning the bid.

You may think that you know all about the project or services that you are delivering i.e. operations, delivery of objectives and targets against the criterion etc.

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Our team of highly-trained and experienced consultants are able to work with your organisation should you need support with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) matters such as:

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Ofsted have given huge importance to what the National Centre for Diversity is calling the “Four legs of the elephant in the classroom” as enumerated below:

  • SMSC
  • Fundamental British Values
  • Preventing radicalisation
  • PSHE.

Getting these wrong will land Schools in serious trouble. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are golden threads that run right through everything that happens in Schools particularly with the ‘4 legs’ above.

We live in times, which are like no other. Schools are still very often brilliant, lively, creative and exciting places to work and are places in which a solitary teacher can change the lives of the children they interact with. However, it is arguable this is the most difficult time to work in Schools.

The socio-political context is making it increasingly a difficult job as a exhausted Head confirmed recently when he said “ The demands of the job are more than they have ever been. I want to explore other opportunities”.

Teachers have now to teach in the context of different frameworks, different pieces of legislation and frequently changing inspection frameworks.

In July 2015 we saw the introduction of a new duty on Schools to “Prevent persons from becoming involved in terrorism”. The duty was enshrined within the scarily named ‘Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015’. What is even scarier is the fact that Teachers failing to do their duty could receive up to 5 years in prison.

We have new concepts that Schools have to embrace, unpick, understand and cascade through the School into approaches to teaching and actually into teaching practice. The new concepts include ‘Fundamental British values’ (FBV), preventing radicalisation, extremism – how the language in Schools has changed.

FBV has to be taught effectively. FBV needs to be routed through the SMSC agenda. SMSC has been bolstered and has been given an arguably unprecedented level of significance in Ofsted’s latest Common Inspection framework. So now, SMSC has to be in the DNA of every School. It can be a bolt on or one of those things you tick off because it is an on-going journey and never will be ticked off.

Academies can have funding pulled if they fail in their duties around the ‘four legs’ – it’s that serious.

A survey carried out by the EHRC at the end of 2012 found that four fifths of Schools were failing to comply with their duties as prescribed by the 2010 Equality Act and the ‘Public Sector Equality Duty’ (PSED) as contained within the act.

We have spoken to literally hundreds of School leaders at various conferences and events that we have and only a small handful had even heard of the PSED let alone knew of the dire consequences of paying due regard.

By not complying Schools therefore are leaving themselves open to disgruntled teachers taking them to tribunals, parents and even children reporting them to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Teachers unions are telling is that they are advising their members to use the fact that their School has not fulfilled its PSED duty against them in tribunals.

Huddersfield New College

Why did you start your Investors in Diversity journey?

We are firmly committed to embracing equality, diversity and inclusion because these concepts are at the heart of our College’s mission. We achieved Investors in Diversity in December 2011 and when it was time to renew the accreditation we made the decision to stretch ourselves and aim to achieve the Leaders award.

What benefits have you seen to date from embarking on this journey?

The process of working towards Leaders in Diversity is beneficial in that it provides a framework and an impetus to continuously review your practices as an individual and an organisation. We were obliged, under the framework, to review aspects of our work that we had not previously considered in great depth from an equality perspective, and this was important for us in terms of developing and improving on identified areas of our provision, particularly those relating to external partnerships.

Would you recommend the training to other organisations? If yes, why?

Yes, without question. We received excellent support from our advisor, Jo Barton, whose patience during difficult times and ability to distinguish between fact and perception was wonderfully reassuring. We always felt that we were on a solid path, without being in any way complacent, because of the clear advice and guidance that Jo gave us. The final assessment, while incredibly thorough, was made a pleasant experience by Jo’s calm approach and her genuine interest in and encouragement about the working we are undertaking.

Zoe Shackleton,
Assistant Principal

Babcock Education and Training

“The findings have been really positive and have enabled us to identify gaps in our provision that when filled will make a big difference to our customers. Using an external specialist organisation has really made us evaluate what we do and, although already firmly embedded, the impetus and focus on diversity has been totally refreshed throughout all areas of our company.”

John Ruskin College

“We felt we would get the most value from Leaders in Diversity. One of the biggest benefits came from the advisor conducting classroom observations to see how well we embedded Equality, Diversity and Inclusion into teaching practice. The advisor identified gaps and was able to share observations, knowledge and good practice, which we implemented and this was further recognised by Ofsted.”

The Royal National College for the Blind

"It is clear that [The National Centre for Diversity] understands our college and the work we do. I have really enjoyed the process; I hoped it would take this college to a higher level of understanding with regards to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and it's certainly achieved that."

Our Clients

  • Adult College for Rural East Sussex
  • Amersham & Wycombe College
  • Aylesbury College
  • Barking and Dagenham College
  • Barnet and Southgate College
  • Barnsley College
  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • Berkshire College of Agriculture
  • Bilborough College
  • Bournville College
  • Bridgwater College
  • Brooklands College
  • BSix
  • Bury College
  • Calderdale College
  • Cardiff and Vale College
  • Central Bedfordshire College
  • City College Coventry
  • City of Glasgow College
  • Coleg Cambria (formally Yale College)
  • Coleg Cambria
  • Communication Specialist College Doncaster
  • Derby College
  • Epping Forest College
  • Franklin College
  • Guildford College Group
  • Hadlow College
  • Halesowen College
  • Hartlepool College
  • Havering Sixth Form College
  • Heart of Worcestershire College (was Worcester College of Technology)
  • Henshaws College
  • Hereford Sixth Form College
  • Hereward College
  • Hopwood Hall College
  • Huddersfield New College
  • John Ruskin College
  • Kirklees College
  • Leeds City College
  • Leeds College of Art
  • Longley Park Sixth Form College
  • Mid Kent College
  • Milton Keynes College
  • Moulton College
  • Myerscough College
  • New College Lanarkshire Coatbridge Campus
  • New College Pontefract
  • New College Stamford
  • New College Telford
  • Newham College of FE
  • North Hertfordshire College
  • North Nottinghamshire College
  • Northern College
  • Orchard Hill College
  • Peterborough Regional College
  • Plumpton College
  • Queen Alexandra College
  • Richard Taunton Sixth Form College
  • Richmond Adult Community College
  • Royal National College for the Blind
  • South Lanarkshire College
  • South Leicestershire College
  • St Francis Xavier’s Sixth Form College
  • Sussex Coast College
  • Telford College of Arts & Technology
  • The Henley College
  • The Sheffield College
  • Truro and Penwith College
  • Waltham Forest College
  • Weymouth College

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