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A chance to achieve equality

The new principals' training programme should aim to improve equal opportunities in further education, say the groups representing women and ethnic minorities. It should address discrimination in colleges, both among students and staff, says Wally Brown, chair of the Network for BlackManagers.

And he said further training for senior management could help remove barriers to ethnic minorities in gaining senior posts in FE.

Wally Brown, principal of Liverpool Community College, is one of two black principals in England. Only 2 per cent of college managers are black or Asian.

He said since incorporation, the track record of colleges on race had worsened because they were no longer bound by local authority equal opportunitypolicies.

FE is now trying to address some of these issues. A new commission to investigate race discrimination has been set up, backed by the Association of Colleges, the Further Education Funding Council and the lecturers' union, Natfhe.

And in his speech to the AOC conference, David Melville said management training programmes "will be an important component in ensuring that black staff are better represented at senior levels in colleges".

Wally Brown said: "Clearly there would need to be some cover of equal opportunities, best practice in terms of recruitment, and the kind of procedures which underpin a college.

"And in training for senior management, clearly there's a need to make sure they are addressing the issues, in relation to prospecive principals.

"If we are trying to move forward on this agenda, it's absolutely crucial that the programme doesn't just pay lip service to this issue, but actually addresses it in an adequate way."

Sally Dicketts, chair of the National Network for Women Managers in Further and Continuing Education, said the training must also address gender issues.

Numbers of women in senior management posts in FE have improved in recent years, though still only about 20 per cent of college principals are women. The new training for principals will be a good chance to network and share good practice in equal opportunities, she says.

"Being a principal is actually quite a lonely role. This training gives you somebody appropriate to discuss some of the more difficult issues. It provides a support network, as well as a good practice network."

Graham Peeke of the Further Education Development Agency admitted that elements in the training encouraging women and ethnic minorities still had to be addressed.

"There are those who have expressed quite clearly to us that there are specific issues related to gender and ethnic background.

"And I think this will be important when we are selecting people who come on the programme.

"But also it's something that perhaps we ought to give more thought to and perhaps go back to the funding council and talk about it in a bit more detail.

"It might well be that there are some important issues here that need to be included."

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