Black Lives Matter - Our Conversation

We opened up an important conversation this month. An online group of students and staff, chaired by our MP for Slough, Tan Dhesi, came forward to discuss and debate what Black Lives Matter means to them, what it has taught them and the role the College has to play and what it can do over the next academic year.

Commenting on the importance of creating the Black Lives Matter conversation, Principal and CEO Kate Webb said: “We want to create lasting change. As proud as we are of our track record we recognise this needs to be an ongoing conversation in order to sustain effective and meaningful change. Our thanks therefore to Irma Richardson who wrote to me and inspired us to provide and facilitate a safe space for this discussion and debate.”

Setting the scene chair Tan Dhesi commented on the need to counter discrimination and prejudice, saying: “It is important that we use this defining moment as an opportunity to change our thinking for the better.  Discrimination and prejudice can present themselves at any stage of life and in any circumstance. We need to harness the ability of youth to implement rapid change.”

What Black Lives Matter means to me

The online forum agreed that discrimination occurs in all settings which has been brought to a head with Black Lives Matter. Finding a collective way forward means learning to actively interrogate habits and the structural norms, and in particular doing this even when not directly or personally affected.

Delegates likened the challenge as similar to the Me Too movement with structural injustices needing to be removed from society. They agreed that education in its widest sense will be key, with more work required beyond the classroom and a sustained approach to open up the debate, continue the conversation and reach the harder to teach such as the older generations.

What the Black Lives Matter movement taught me

This is going to, and needs to be, an ongoing conversation. Historical change is taking place and Black Lives Matter is no longer about one group fighting for their own rights with people from other communities now joining the movement.

The forum recognised that there needs to be a way to find the language and common understanding to comfortably discuss and address the matter and to be tolerant of those trying to find the right language to use.

It is also important to acknowledge that we might not be as knowledgeable as we thought we were, in the ways we should be. The forum discussed the need to build awareness and understanding on top of what we thought we knew. Work through the language barriers and address unconscious bias.

Going forward affinity group case studies will help look at the issues on a deeper level and here at the College there is an understanding that the curriculum will need to change to face our nation’s realities and collective diverse history.

The role the College will play and actions to be taken

As our Principal and CEO Kate Webb has previously said “Black Lives Matter is about education” and as a group of colleges with a diverse learning community there is much that can and will be done to create lasting change.

We are committed to teaching a curriculum which covers a diverse globalised history and we will look for ways to diversify and identify gaps in the curriculum. We need to educate and train in the correct use of language and terminology.

It is important to keep these discussions going after the trending and recognise that there is and will be diversity of opinion. We will identify missing voices in our curriculum and give space within the curriculum to facilitate conversations.

Student outcomes remain a top priority. We will gather student data across our three Colleges to establish if there are any variances in achievement rates across the College group for various groups.

Kate Webb concludes: “This has been a powerful conversation. We are committed to identifying equalities and providing student support for those affected by racism or discrimination. We will train our staff so they can confidently lead these conversations in a skilled way and we will develop both staff and Governors from varying backgrounds within the College.”

The conversation is set to continue with delegates agreeing it is important to keep momentum going by making the meeting a regular event.

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