FE Voices - MK College


FE Voices

Welcome to #FEVoices, a series of events and resources from MK College Group focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion that seek to amplify diverse voices in this space, within FE and beyond.

Our new podcast series focuses on racial justice and we are joined by students, EDI experts, business leaders and the Further Education Commissioner across five episodes. Our guests will share their experiences, highlight what racial justice means to them, identify priorities and resources that will make a difference and empower listeners to support meaningful change.

See below for links to the FE Voices podcast, as well as links for our previous webinars.

Season 3

#FEVOICES S3, SESSION 1 – Areeba Iftakhar, Fahad Thabit and Ahmadullah Oryakhil

This is the first episode of the Milton Keynes College Group podcast series of FE Voices. The series is hosted by Arv Kaushal, the College Group’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, and created to amplify diverse voices on a number of key topics within the EDI sector.

In this episode Arv talks to the Student commissioners on ‘Racial Justice’ Areeba Iftakhar, Fahad Thabit and Ahmadullah Oryakhil

Our position as an FE college in Milton Keynes, England’s newest city with both significant pockets of deprivation, affluence and an incredibly diverse community, puts us in a strong position to bring different voices to some of the key debates in our society.

This series will focus on racial justice, an issue in the news across the world and an unfortunate battleground for those seeking to capitalise on division within our society. The series will consist of five episodes, featuring conversations with a number of different guests from within the College Group itself, from the local business community and from the education sector.

Our guests will share their experiences, highlight what racial justice means to them, identify priorities and resources that will make a difference and empower the listener to support meaningful change.

Season 2

#FEVoices S2, Session 1 – Arv Kaushal, MK College Group

This first session of #FEVoices series 2 looks at how MK College Group is developing their new strategy and his hosted and presented by Arv Kaushal.  Joining him are Dr Julie Mills (CEO), Liz Marr (EDI link Governor), Lee Parker (Director of Marketing & Communications), Jason Mansell (Senior Operations Director and Alex Warner (Principal) who all give their unique perspectives on their role and commitment to delivering that ‘fairer future’ for all.

#FEVoices S2, Session 2 – Sam Coles, Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMET)

Diversity and Inclusion underpins BMet’s vision, values and goals enabling the college to be an inspiring place to work and to provide excellent learning opportunities for Birmingham and the city region.  The college aims to lead in best practices where diversity is genuinely desired and sought and where inclusion is nurtured through trust and engagement. As an example of their culture change programme two members of staff talk about their work around LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Sue Hopewell, Vice Principal Curriculum and Quality

Reflecting on my career I would not change many things. Starting in the travel industry when I was 18 was a great experience and provided me with the opportunity to visit so many places. I still love travelling and try and take as many breaks and holidays to different places as possible.

I came into further education by accident through a conversation with a customer when I was booking their holiday. I have never looked back and after spending the first 16 years furthering my education, gaining numerous relevant qualifications including a Master’s Degree, I really value the sector we work in and appreciate the doors it can open for many young people and adults. Working closely with colleagues we continually strive to deliver a high quality learning experience for all those studying with the college and ensure that our communities feel valued and listened to. For me the students have to be at the heart of all we do.

Sam Coles, Diversity and Inclusion Manager

As a young person I developed a very strong sense of social justice and there’s always been a focus of advancing equality, diversity and inclusion throughout my working and personal life, for example: campaigning for temporary worker’s rights, establishing a lesbian parents group in Cambridge in the  90s, working in outreach settings with racially and socially marginalised women and volunteering as a visitor for detainees in an immigration removal centre.  

I made good use of further education evening classes while working and joined a large college in 2006 initially employed as an information services practitioner to set up a resource centre to support basic skills teachers.  I became a chartered librarian but took the opportunity of a permanent EDI role in 2012 and 4 years ago moved to BMet. I love, love, love further education and everything we stand for and I am proud to be part of a college that is working hard to improve people’s lives.

#FEVoices S2 Session 3 – Ellisha Soanes, West Suffolk College & Jeff Greenidge, AoC & ETF

West Suffolk College became the first FE college to embed an all-year-round Black History curriculum on the back of a student-led project after the murder of George Floyd.  Although those events were the catalyst, they were not the reasons why having a all-year-round approach is so important.

This third session with guest presenter Ellisha Soanes seeks to explore why their approach has had such a positive impact not just for their learners but for their staff and the wider community.  Joining Ellisha is Jeff Greenidge, Director of Diversity at the Association of Colleges, who offers a cross-sector context to this work and more broadly around why inclusive approaches are so important.

#FEVoices S2 Session 4 – Jaspal Dhaliwal, Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES)

Season 1

#FEVoices S1, Session 1 – The Lived Experience

For a full transcript of the session please click here.

Time to listen and learn

The modern tendency to dismiss experts when we don’t like what they say is a disturbing one.  Social media has given rise to a strangely cacophonous form of democracy where everyone can shout their views all at once on any subject, no voice louder than another regardless of knowledge or the lack thereof.  The other, more positive side of this coin is that individuals have a greater belief that their views deserve to be heard, and organisations – be they businesses, charities or membership groups – are discovering that listening to their audiences is something they must do.  The days are gone when people “in charge” told those whose lives they impact what was good for them.  

FE Voices is about precisely that.  A series of three discussions around the issues of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the FE sector, we have brought people together to hear about their lived experience of inequality, uniformity and omission – how it feels and how it affects their aspirations, their progress and their sense of self.

This is an issue which affects us all.  Limiting what individuals can achieve by happenstance of colour, religion, disability, neurodiversity etc., limits what society can itself accomplish.  It’s not just about morality and fairness.  The business case for everyone being treated the same is incontrovertible; if you limit the talent pool from which you look to recruit along such arbitrary lines as someone’s faith or the pigment of their skin you’re going to miss out on a lot of productive people.

Of course, EDI is about much more than that.  It’s about the fundamentals of human decency; it’s about learning to walk in another’s shoes and most importantly of all, it’s about treating others with the same degree of fairness and understanding with which we would wish to be treated ourselves.

In our first session we bring together people with first hand experience of the FE sector, as students and staff, to hear what their lived experiences are and have been.  Some of the things they have enjoyed and endured may surprise or shock you.  Some may produce a lightbulb moment about ways to help us all make others who are different from us feel more comfortable.  All the panellists live their own lives, and their insights are enlightening.

They are:

Sayeda Meghjee – HR Director, Luton Sixth Form College

Sineeha Maheshwari – Student, Milton Keynes College

Aniesa Shah – Teaching & Learning Development Manager, Milton Keynes College Group

Haroon Bashir – Deputy designated Safeguarding Lead and Equality Manager, Halesowen College

James Corbin – Broadcast Digital Producer, Fashion Model & Activist

Kimmy Kimani – Student Engagement Officer, Milton Keynes College

#FEVoices S1, Session 2 – Looking In

For a full transcript of the session please click here.

Seeing ourselves as others see us

In Shakespeare’s Henry V, the king goes among his soldiers in disguise on the eve of the battle of Agincourt to find out what they really think of him – and not everything they say is to his liking.  It’s all too easy when cocooned within a movement or organisation to assume you’re doing what’s right, without necessarily checking with the people impacted by your decisions.

In the second of our FE voices panel discussions, we bring together people from outside the world of colleges to say what they see when Looking In on us.  The messages of FE have many audiences beyond the obvious ones of staff and students.  There are the businesses with which we collaborate, be it in terms of making sure our curriculum provision teaches students the skills they need or as partners in traineeships or apprenticeships.  There are the charities – the allied organisations also working towards improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in society.  There are the schools, our providing pipeline for the bulk of our students.  There are the wider communities we serve with their great mixture of faiths, cultures, politics, levels of depravation or wealth.

All have a view on how we could be doing what we’re doing more effectively, more fairly, more productively.  FE’s job is to give students the skills they need to launch good careers which contribute to society and help them to lead a happy and fulfilled life.  But it’s also to help transform lives, not just through education but also in allowing them the space and stimulus to grow into good, happy members of our wider community.  That’s what we think we’re doing, but how do we actually look to those on the outside?

Our panellists for this session are:

Sufian Sadiq – Director of the Teaching School at Chiltern Learning Trust (panel chair)
Shalom Lloyd – Founder & MD, Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd
Oba Akinwale – Direction of Operations, Loud Speaker
Rev Paul Oxley – St Mark’s Church, Milton Keynes
Rehana Faisal – Founder & Chair, Lantern
Shahida Aslam – Director of Operations, Helena Kennedy Foundation
Dawn Fitt OBE – Deputy Head of School, Milton Keynes College Group
Jason Holt CBE – Holts Group of Companies
Majid Al-Kader – CEO, MX Reality Ltd

#FEVoices S1, Session 3 – The Reformers

For a full transcript of the session please click here.

Deciding what to teach

If one thread has been woven consistently into the thoughts of the panellists we’ve listened to in this FE Voices series, it is representation.  In FE Voices 3 we wanted to hear from the Reformers, those individuals in positions of authority in further education whose stated aim is to make things better.  Not all change is top down, but it’s an awful lot easier to reform behaviours and outcomes if the people in charge are on board with the idea.  What does representation mean to them, and how do they try to make their own institutions more representative?

We also wanted to look at curriculum.  Not so very long ago, school atlases in Britain and the Commonwealth were printed with a very different colour scheme from those published in other nations.  Great swathes of land from Australia to India to Africa were illustrated in a deep red colour, a powerful visual reminder of Empire and dominion.  Generations of school children had their view of the world entirely shaped by those crimson land masses.  Curriculum matters.

What we see, not just in school books but in people, sculpts our view of the world.  Think of the face mask, that ubiquitous symbol of the pandemic.  A couple of years ago it felt a bit odd, perhaps even slightly uncomfortable, to encounter people from China wearing masks on our streets.  Today if we walk into a supermarket, we are more likely to feel disconcerted when other shoppers aren’t wearing masks at all.  Perceptions can be changed, and often what we see is the biggest driver towards that altered state of mind.


Altaf Hussain – Principal & CEO, Luton Sixth Form College
Jeff Greenidge – Director of Diversity, Education & Training Foundation
Julie Mills OBE – CEO, Milton Keynes College Group
Solat Chaudhry – Group Chief Executive, National Centre for Diversity
Cindy Rampersaud – Senior Vice President, Pearson BTEC & Apprenticeships
Shelagh Legrave OBE – FE Commissioner Designate

The session was hosted by Arv Kaushal and chaired by Rajinder Mann OBE – Board Member of the Institute for FE.

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