I am currently delivering a cultural enhancement initiative at a college in the UK.
Called, the RESPECT CAMPAIGN, and initially a training program aimed at facilitating understanding of the Equality Act 2010, so that students develop an awareness of all 9 protected characteristics (disability, race, sexual orientation, religion and belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sex and age), the initiative looks at how discriminatory behaviour towards anyone who holds one or more of these, and that means anyone, is unacceptable.
The Equality Act has brought together a range of separate laws which previously covered areas such as disability and race and has created a balanced and fair approach to how discrimination is viewed and responded to within law.
There is an obligation for service providers, including educational institutions, to comply with this legislation and train staff on equality and diversity issues.
The training was aimed at students to encourage more respectful behaviour towards others, within and outside the classroom, but, in order to do this, the tutors themselves have had to attend a variety of workshop sessions.
There is a tangible cultural shift and particular interest from certain staff and students who understand the relevance and importance of such training.
Recently, I’ve been invited to some lessons where students have asked more about the reasons for the RESPECT CAMPAIGN and they have wanted to know of any challenges and successes.
Two questions are below – more will follow in future blogs on this subject.
Question: Do you find it harder to implement the respect campaign within the vocational courses such as construction and mechanics?
Answer: Vocational courses, particularly those you mention, may have been more challenging potentially, or that may have been the assumption. By assuming this we may have been stereotyping these students as a group who share the historically sexist, perhaps homophobic, attitudes of a male dominated industry. Interestingly, it has been found that people of this generation are more open to diversity and this includes the students on these courses. Not all, of course, but many have a better understanding of and awareness of social inequality and for those who hold prejudiced views there has been an opportunity for them to express these and hear other views. Ultimately, we learn from others and the tutors have been a key part in delivering the training in a way which facilitates safe and open discussion.
Question: Are certain areas of the respect campaign more sucessful than others?
Answer: we structured the training in a way which allowed tutors time to build towards the more challenging parts, or less well understood parts, so that they had the confidence to find their own feet in how they approach the different topics. By giving tutors the resources, handbooks, power points, handouts and training in advance and by emphasising that their role is to facilitate, not teach, and to always remain unbiased, the tutors have no need to be experts themselves. Each issue, topic, is equally important and the students are only to know how prejudice of any form is unacceptable – in relation to how they behave in college and the workplace. We can’t change beliefs, but we can reinforce a better awareness that certain behaviours are not correct.
For more info email DavidWatters@nbiassociates.co.uk