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Nine out of 10 black FE staff face 'racial barriers' to promotion, survey suggests

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Nearly nine out of 10 black staff members working in further education will face racial barriers to getting promotion, according to a report released today by the University and College Union (UCU).

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of the survey respondents working in FE said that they were "often" or "sometimes" subjected to cultural insensitivity, while 68 per cent said they had "often" or "sometimes" been the victim of bullying and harassment from managers while at work. More than half (53 per cent) of respondents did not see a positive future for their career with their current employer.

In total, UCU surveyed 631 black members of staff across the FE and HE sectors. As well as identifying key problems in the workplace, respondents were asked to grade the most effective measures to combat workplace racism. According to 69 per cent of respondents, effective sanctions against perpetrators were the most effective solution, while 61 per cent wanted improved support for black and minority ethnic (BME) staff.

The survey comes ahead of the inaugural national day of action against workplace racism on 10 February, which is organised by the UCU to raise awareness of the challenges black staff face in reaching positions of leadership and management.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “It’s clear that too many institutions, be it through caution or complacency about discrimination and racism, have not made any structured attempts to monitor or investigate what’s happening on the ground. Of course, they are well aware that black staff are dramatically under-represented at higher levels but for too long they have let it slip under the radar."

She added: “Our survey shows that people want leaders within the sector to take a more proactive role, and I include UCU in that task. All institutions must be prepared to radically examine their structures, policies and procedures and make changes."

A spokesperson for the Association of Colleges said: “Colleges take allegations of bullying and harassment very seriously and would seek to redress issues which might undermine effective working relationships between staff.”

Last month, TES reported that the number of black and minority ethnic principals in FE had dropped by a third, from 17 in 2012-13 to 11 today.

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