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Network aims to end race bias;FE Focus

Neil Merrick on the discrimination faced by black lecturers, and the principals who have succeeded against the odds

Black lecturers are being overlooked for promotion and need more support to help them breakthrough into senior management, according to a pressure group to be launched next week.

The Network for Black Managers in Further Education claims that the low representation of black teachers in management is being ignored by decision-makers. It wants the Government to take a lead by appointing a black person to the Further Education Funding Council.

There are just two black principals in England and Wales while a survey last year by the Further Education Development Agency showed only 2 per cent of FE managers belong to an ethnic minority. Staffing figures being published this month by the FEFC suggest that about 6 per cent of all lecturers are black or from an ethnic minority.

Robin Landman, assistant principal of Bilston Community College, near Wolverhampton, and a leading figure behind the new network, said: "There are very few black teachers in FE to start off with and very few of them get into senior management or become college principals."

The network, which is holding its inaugural meeting next Wednesday, will act as a lobbying organisation and offer support to black teachers seeking management training.

It is due to hold early talks with FEDA over a new management development programme for ethnic minority teachers. Though many have degrees and postgraduate qualifications, they are often marginalised into areas such as access courses, outreach centres and adult education.

Sue Brownlow, FEDA's head of institutional development, said the proposed programme would focus on ways of combating racial discrimination as well as covering management skills training.

Milena Buyum, chair of NATFHE's black members committee, said management posts were awarded according to whom people know rather than their ability. "I know many people who are not getting anywhere because their face does not fit," she said.

Ms Buyum, a lecturer at South Birmingham College, added that colleges are also failing to recruit enough black staff to reflect the overall student population - about 12 per cent of FE students are non-white.

The network will operate along similar lines to the National Network for Women Managers, set up five years ago, which helped to increase the number of female principals from 13 in 1990 to about 89 today.

Robin Landman, a part-time FEFC inspector, pointed out that the council does not have a permanent black inspector, while the Government could take a lead by appointing the first ever black member of the FEFC.

"I'm not saying there is any conspiracy against black people in further education. It's just an issue which has slipped off the agenda," he said.

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