Solat Chaudhry, CEO of the National Centre for Diversity, wrote this wonderful article about his recent visit to Huddersfield New College.
“We have worked with over 120 Colleges over an eleven and half year period.
In 2016, Huddersfield New College achieved the best ever Fairness, Respect, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (FREDI) diagnostic results for a College.
So, when I went to see them, there were several burning questions in my mind. What was it that made them so good? How had they improved so dramatically over a 12 month period? What was the role of the leaders, and how did they do it?
I wondered what the college would be like. What would it sound like? What would I see? How would the learners and staff behave, and how would it feel to be walking into the 'UK's Number 1 College'?
All these questions were going through my mind as I dropped my kids off at School and then took the 30 minute drive out to the College campus.
When I got there, I was struck by how beautiful it was, how clean it was and how well-organised everything was. I walked into the reception area and straight away I saw the 'Leaders in Diversity' plaque, proudly displayed in the reception office. I spotted it and excitedly said, "Oh wow! I can see your Leaders in Diversity plaque!" The person at reception, equally as excited, beamed and said "Yes, look!" and she very proudly showed me her Diversity Champion badge. What a start! I was just another visitor- I wasn't there to do an assessment or anything like that. That’s just the way this person was.
How many times have we been in reception areas and have been treated like we are not there or as a nuisance? Whereas at New College, I'd not been in the building two minutes and I was already impressed. The people that work in reception areas are just so important - they make the first impression to outsiders and as we all know, first impressions last.
I was then met by the 'UK FE Sector Employee of the Year 2016', the humble but highly capable Zoe Shackleton. Zoe took me in to see the College’s Principal, Angela Williams, who I hadn't really spoken to in any detail before. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would be like. I was a little bit in awe of her, knowing what a great achievement it was to end up as the UK's Number 1 College. Would she be warm and friendly, or stand-offish and aloof?
Like many others, I had been gripped by her speech at last year’s Grande Awards Ceremony. I had heard her riveting speech describing her life, her career and what FREDI meant to her.
Within seconds, I knew I was talking to someone who was humble, warm, friendly, intelligent and down to earth- a first class leader. That went for all the people I spoke to. They were all passionate about FREDI, as well as being knowledgeable and open to learning without being ‘know-it-alls’. They gave me the impression that they had a sponge-like thirst for knowledge. They were not going to rest on their massive achievements and there was going to be no let-up. They were so complimentary about their 'Leaders in Diversity' Advisor, Jo Barton and about their first Advisor Bruce Waller. As the CEO of the National Centre for Diversity, this gave me a great sense of pride and a warm glow which has lasted all week!
Zoe showed me many displays of their commitment to FREDI, including an accessible picnic table designed for wheel chair users. As she showed me around the building, Zoe introduced me to several people and many of them were proudly showing off their Diversity Champion badges.
The atmosphere throughout my visit was warm, inclusive, friendly and professional. If I lived in the locality I would want my kids to go Huddersfield New College because I know that they would be treated respectfully, fairly and would have every chance to excel.”
You can read the article in situe here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/secrets-success-huddersfield-new-college-what-solat-a-chaudhry?trk=prof-post