Abingdon & Witney College provide an environment that is inclusive and where all feel safe and valued.
We want all our students and staff to enjoy their time at Abingdon & Witney College and feel like they can just be themselves, without having to worry about judgement or bullying.
Key to our mission of changing lives and communities is removing barriers to learning with us and working with us, whatever they may be, and promoting a positive and tolerant environment for everyone.
Some of the initiatives we have started and projects from others that we promote include:
- Student Voice – a representative body run by students, for the the students
- QuILTBAG+ – our representative group for the LGBTQAI+ college community
- Time to Change – run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, we have an employer pledge to support people to open up to mental health problems
- In-house training for staff on equality, diversity and inclusion
- Ready, Respectful, Safe – what we ask all our students and staff to be whilst on campus, to themselves and each other
- The amazing support teams we have, covering Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), autism, young carers and many other specialist areas.
We also follow the guidelines as laid out by the public sector equality duty, and have set ourselves specific Equality Objectives as a college, which you can read more about below.We also follow the guidelines as laid out by the public sector equality duty, and have set ourselves specific Equality Objectives as a college, which you can read more about below.We also follow the guidelines as laid out by the public sector equality duty, and have set ourselves specific Equality Objectives as a college, which you can read more about below.
We also follow the guidelines as laid out by the public sector equality duty, and have set ourselves specific Equality Objectives as a college. You can read more about these objectives in the section below.
The public sector equality duty is made up of a general equality duty supported by specific duties which is set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
The general equality duty applies to ‘public authorities’. Those subject to the general equality duty must, in the exercise of their functions, have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
The Equality Act explains that the aim of advancing equality of opportunity involves, in particular, having due regard to the need to:
- remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics
- take steps to meet the needs of people with certain protected characteristics where these are different from the needs of other people
- encourage people with certain protected characteristics to fully participate including activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
Protected characteristics are:
- gender reassignment;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- religion or belief;
- and sexual orientation.
It states that meeting different needs includes (among other things) taking steps to take account of disabilities, including mental health. It describes fostering good relations as tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups. It explains that compliance with the general equality duty may involve treating some people more favourably than others.
In summary, each listed public sector authority including the college is required to:
- Publish information to demonstrate its compliance with the general equality duty. This information must include, in particular, information relating to people who share a protected characteristic who are:
• its employees, and;
• people affected by its policies and practices i.e. the College’s students.
- Prepare and publish one or more objectives needed to further any of the aims of the general equality duty.
Both the equality information and the equality objectives must be published in a manner that is accessible to the public.
The College is attempting to address the issues of collecting relevant data concerning the protected characteristics of staff and students with a view to engaging better with these groups so that any discrimination, harassment or victimisation can be better identified and so that good relations can be fostered between different groups.
Since the last Equality Objectives were published in 2016, promotional activity has been underway to encourage staff to complete their Protected Characteristic data on the HR Database (iTrent) through the Self-Service option. Regular communication has been sent to staff who haven’t completed this, or if they have chosen the option of “prefer not to say”, as to why we collect the data and how we use it. This has shown a decrease in staff using this option.
The College will take steps to address the need for a diverse portfolio matching the student population in terms of protected characteristics.
The College will ensure that the admissions team are gathering data on race, disability, gender and age of students via the enrolment process. The College will also seek an indication of the likely representation on sexual orientation and religion/belief, and of any challenges or barriers experienced by transgender students.
The College recognises that students may not want to disclose this information on their arrival at the College, so opportunities will be provided during 1-1 sessions with tutors and performance managers at the start of the academic year for these conversations to take place. These systems will be reviewed ahead of the September 2020 intake.
Feedback suggests that the College values are not well known to all staff and students, that it is not necessarily interlinked consistently with the College’s Ready Respectful Safe agenda and needs more work. By 2024, the College will have reviewed its values and ensure they are embedded in all processes, policies and practices, that they are at the heart of everything staff and students do. In the 2019 Staff Survey, 85% of respondents said they felt valued – the College aims to unpick what this means, how we can reach the 15% who didn’t agree with this, and what the staff who didn’t complete the survey felt, to ensure that all sectors of the community are represented.
95% of students indicated that they were treated fairly at College in the student survey 2020, with 99% feeling that expectations related to Ready, Respectful, Safe were clear. No specific questions relating to the College values were asked.
The College will ensure that its commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is clear and unequivocal in any communications. However, the College plans to improve the way it communicates with staff and students across all Protected Characteristics.
The College will therefore develop various ways in which the voice of different groups with shared protected characteristics is more able to be heard and listened to within its staff and student bodies.
By 2021, the College will introduce an annual Equality and Diversity festival, incorporating all Protected Characteristics to inform and celebrate. Events will include guest speakers, activities and competitions. Feedback from this will be used to inform future events. Staff and students will be involved in pulling this together and all Faculties and Business Support areas will submit an activity related to this theme. By 2024, it is envisaged that this will allow for Champions across all Protected Characteristics to support those staff and students who may be struggling.
The feedback and any themes will be monitored by the College’s Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare group made up of staff managers and a student representative. Information gathered from Staff Grievances and Student Complaints will also be monitored to ensure that if these relate to discrimination or less favourable treatment on the basis of a Protected Characteristic, that this is used to inform training. In 2019/20 to date, no Staff Grievance has been related to this and no formal student complaints
Staff exit questionnaires now include a question about whether a person’s Protected Characteristic had any bearing (positive or negative) on their employment at the College. Themes are fed back to the PDBA Committee and the College Leadership Team to take forward any actions arising or to ensure further training.
The annual student conference and the student satisfaction survey enable students to express their views on their time at College. The survey, delivered through Office 365, has been improved since its implementation in January 2016. The in-house approach provides the flexibility to carry out the survey twice in each academic year to measure change in students’ opinions during the academic year. The survey allows the College to monitor variation in opinions across protected characteristic groups, and allows students to voice concerns and opinions anonymously. Issues raised are then addressed by focus groups and the College's student representatives.
As part of the core tutorial programme sessions covering British Values provide students with the opportunity to discuss freely equality and diversity within society.
All 16 -19 students have a progression PDP when finishing their course in order to record destinations. Data on early leavers will be captured through a template held on Pro-Monitor for review by curriculum staff. Through this process the College will ascertain if a protected characteristic had any impact on the student’s study programme and experience at College. The College is committed to continue to narrow any gaps in performance by different groups of students and will take appropriate actions to achieve this. This too will be fed back to the PDBW committee and actions followed up as appropriate, for implementation during academic year 16/17.
The College’s Equality and Diversity Policy will be delivered through these objectives, 2020-2024. The objectives will be taken forward in the operational action plan overseen by the PDBA Committee.