Letter to Dame Christine Braddock CBE, Principal of Birmingham Metropolitan College

Below is the text from the letter that I have sent to Dame Christine Braddock CBE, Principal of Birmingham Metropolitan College raising my concerns and the concerns of my constituents.

11th September 2013

Dear Dame Braddock CBE,

I am writing to you in connection with your reported comments in the Birmingham Mail whereby you are quoted saying that safeguarding is a priority for the college and the policy of banning the wearing of veils is in the interest of learners and reflects the views of students. Whilst I recognise fully the priority of safeguarding learners from harm I cannot see, however, how the banning of veils contributes to the safeguarding agenda as I very much suspect that for those learners who choose to wear the veil will indeed feel that no one is safeguarding their choice for cultural dress.

Further, and more importantly, I would have also thought that a key priority for you, and your management team, is the quality of service you provide to learners, and employers, compared to other colleges within the city rather than getting involved with silly policy making. Using the Skills Funding Agency’s FE Choices web site and comparing Birmingham Metropolitan College to other Birmingham based colleges it would appear that your success rates for 2011/12 lag significantly behind other colleges within the city (table 1). And more worryingly I am also deeply concerned about your success rates for apprenticeships, especially for learners from a minority background (table 2). It would appear that learners from some of our most disadvantage communities, and arguably the ones who need the most support, (African-Caribbean and Pakistani) are not doing anywhere near as well as learners from other backgrounds – and this saddens me immensely as many of my constituents have a African-Caribbean or Pakistani heritage.

Table 1 Success Rates for FE Colleges in Birmingham 2011/12

Organisation Name

FE Long courses Success Rates

FE Short courses Success Rates

Workplace Learning Success Rates

Learner Satisfaction Views

Bournville College of Further Education

81.90%

87.30%

91.90%

8.5 out of 10
BIRMINGHAM METROPOLITAN COLLEGE

75.80%

81.10%

79.50%

7.7 out of 10
SOUTH AND CITY COLLEGE BIRMINGHAM

82.20%

89.60%

96.00%

8.5 out of 10
Source: FE Choices 2013 – data for the academic year 2011/12

 

Table 2 Birmingham Metropolitan College’s Success Rates for Apprenticeships by Ethnicity

Ethnicity Apprenticeship Level

Success Rate %

African All Levels

50

Any other Asian Background All Levels

83.3

Any other ethnic group All Levels

60

Any other White Background All Levels

84.2

Bangladeshi All Levels

75

Caribbean All Levels

54.2

English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British All Levels

71.6

Indian All Levels

86.5

Irish All Levels

100

Not known / Not provided All Levels

80

Pakistani All Levels

63.6

White and Asian All Levels

83.3

White and Black Caribbean All Levels

68.8

Source: Data Service 2013

In February this year I presented the findings of ‘Birmingham: Where the World Meets’ a report by the Social Cohesion and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee that I Chair to a full City Council meeting. The report highlighted the strength of our great city in attracting people from all over the world to come and live here because of our friendly warm nature but most importantly because we allow all cultures and faiths to feel welcome and integrated whilst respecting their beliefs, faiths, morals and cultures.

Given what I have written thus far I wish to raise a number of concerns on behalf of residents and students regarding the college’s performance and the policy that has now been adopted by the College and I hope that you will be able to give some consideration to addressing these:

  • What are you doing to raise standards of teaching, learning and assessment and therefore improving success rates, especially for learners of a minority background undertaking apprenticeships?
  • Can you outline to me what you are doing to support some of our most disadvantage communities in terms of employability?
  • How were stakeholders including staff and students engaged and consulted with before this decision was made?
  • In highlighting security concerns at the college are you able to explain what these are exactly?
  • I am aware that students and staff have stated that they are willing to reveal their face to ensure security procedures are met with whilst entering the building therefore are you able to explain how security concerns will remain and why this is not deemed an acceptable compromise?

Birmingham is a city built on moving forward. And Birmingham today is recognised throughout England, and Europe, as a great place where diversity and difference is celebrated. Given this I urge you to reflect on your recent decision making as in 2013 the city cannot afford for its largest college to introduce this policy.

Furthermore I feel it is imperative to allow students, staff and visitors to the College to decide how they want to dress based on the democratic right to respect and to allow everyone to observe and practice their religious and cultural beliefs.

In addition I would like to state that it is could be perceived to be highly patronising – not to mention, anti-feminist – to take away the choice of a woman to dress in a way that she feels is personally acceptable to her or to dictate through policy what is acceptable without consideration for religious or cultural beliefs.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to further discuss my concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours truly,

Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE

 

Cc: Vij Randeniya OBE MA BA (Hons) MIFireE, Chair of Corporation,

Kim Thorneywork, Interim Chief Executive, Skills Funding Agency

Lorraine Langham, Chief Operating Officer, OfSted

 

 

 

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